Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back from Vacation

This afternoon I got back from my week-long trip to Germany. I stayed in the Rheinland-Pfalz region and mostly in the same city where I studied abroad two years ago. Luckily I didn't have to pay for a hotel room, because one of the students studying at the Uni Landau this year from my former college let me stay with her - she'd gotten an air mattress from one of the German students we both know. It was more like a mattress with hydraulics; every time someone gets up from it it pops up, but very slowly and at random times. I was able to meet up with some of the students who had studied at my college last year, some of the students I had met during my year in Landau, and the family (and friends) whose 15 yr old I tutored. One week is too short... already the morning before I had to leave I was bummed out. It would be easier, it seems, if I could just live there.

A friend and former Coe exchange student drove me from the airport to Landau, which was extremely helpful considering the railroad strikes. I think the strike didn't actually start until my second day in Germany, but it was nicer traveling in a private vehicle. As soon as we got into Landau we went to the apartment of another friend and former Landau-classmate of mine, where we had a five-hour dinner, wine, and conversation evening. Later on the two exchange students from Coe joined us. There's something very European about just showing up at someone's house for dinner and staying for hours and hours, and having other people show up throughout the night and doing the same. I say this mostly because I've never done something like that with friends my age back in the U.S.A. Maybe it's time I start a new trend.

Thursday I walked around the Landau city center, took note of a few things that have changed (there's a new apartment building being built in one area, several old stores have been replaced with new ones), and generally just "was." It was awesome being back. I actually felt more like I had finally returned home, rather than feeling like a visitor. It's a feeling I definitely don't mind. Friday I went to Neustadt and walked around, did a bit of shopping, then came back to the good ol' Wohnheim and crashed. I haven't been able to take a nap on weekdays in a long time and my brain was thankful. Stasi, the student I was staying with, had classes (duh), so I was able to be on my own and not bother her with having to take me around and show me everything. It probably helped that I already knew my way around :-) However, the first train I tried to take to Neustadt was cancelled due to the strikes. Other than that, travel went on without a hitch.

Saturday Stasi and I eventually made it to Karlsruhe (I say eventually because neither of us woke up very early) and had an afternoon of walking around, checking out some stores, buying CD's, and waiting around the local Starbuck's for free samples of something, which we didn't end up getting. We also hit up a small Imbiss I know of on the main street, which is kind of an old-German style kiosk nestled in between modern things. They serve great bratwurst, currywurst, pommes, and beer. I also like the fact that the outdoor seating is topped off with heat lamps, so that even in the winter, you can enjoy your goodies in the fresh air.

Sunday was spent mostly in Speyer, where Chris (friend, former Coe-exchange student, and chauffeur extraordinaire) gave us a concise city tour. Carrie, the other Coe student at Landau this year, hadn't been in Speyer before, either. We saw the Speyer cathedral, which, according to Chris, is the widest cathedral in Europe. We also saw some lesser known "ruins" in the city, and had lunch at a touristy-yet-loved-by-locals restaurant in the city center. I had Sahneherringfillet, which is basically pickled herring on a dish and not cut up into bits. I like picked herring, but I don't think I've ever eaten that MUCH pickled herring in one sitting. Three fillets, albeit small ones, is a little more than I can handle. Later that evening I had a mini-reunion with the family I had tutored for then went along with the mother and her friends to their Sunday night Stammtisch (they all get together twice a week and go out to eat and visit, each time in a different local restaurant throughout the nearby suburb-cities of Landau). This time Stammtisch was up in the hills at a really nice restaurant, St. Annenberg, I think. The only weird part was the row of animal skulls along the top of one wall. I couldn't figure out what kind of animal it was...

Monday I headed by train to Heidelberg (*heart*) and just walked around the city center, in and out of shops, to the river, etc., for five or so hours. I'll never get sick of that city. I didn't go up to castle this time, but I did take a few minutes to stop and watch the river do its thing.

Tuesday... what happened to Tuesday? Tuesday Chris and Isa (friend, former Landau classmate) drove out with me to Germersheim, where I met with the Translation department representative. There I got information about the program itself, some pamphlets about the school, and more documents to fill out. After Germersheim we drove to Ludwigshafen-Oppau on a mission of mine to find some elusive hair conditioner. Which I found. And duly bought. Then Chris took us to what he called a "free zoo," but which turned out to be the coolest pet store EVER. They sold gigantic Koi fish (at €2300 a pop), small sharks, star fish, giant clams, coral, a flying squirrel, mice, and so on and so forth. The water-creature section was definitely the most developed and interesting. There's one kind of fish that basically looks like a skeleton. I also found it amusing that the parakeets being sold were FAT, at least in comparison to the skinny and sad looking parakeets sold in stores in the U.S.A. These things were rolly-poly, well fed. No need to clip their wings, 'cause they ain't goin' no where. Oh right, and Tuesday morning I sat in on a poetry class taught by Coe's contact professor in Germany. Afterward I stopped by to talk to him and found out that he had seen me sitting in the back of the class and was a bit thrown off by it because he wasn't sure what was going on.

Wednesday I bought what had to be 6 kilo worth of chocolates and Haribo candies to take home to give as gifts. That's right, nothing for me. Gifts for other people. Then I met for coffee with a student who had been at Coe last year, then finished the rest of my gift shopping in Landau. Later Carrie joined up with me and we headed over to Isa's for a Christmas themed farewell dinner. The Christmas theme comes from the fact that I will have just missed the opening of Christmas market season in Germany (it starts on the 26th), and they all know how much I love the markets. At least I'll be able to see the one in Riga on opening day! Then I got back to the Wohnheim, packed, and (once again) talked with Stasi until one of us passed out. It was like having a sleepover every night - I generally talk to my flatmate during the day or when she's not studying, so it was different but nice having someone to talk to almost all of the time.

Today, Thursday, I had a good flight back home, had a good lunch from Lufthansa (laugenstange bread with ham, lettuce, and tomato - now THAT'S a sandwich!), and a good time unpacking all the things I bought not for myself. My flatmate got home and hung around in my room for an hour and half or so (she had a bad week, and I think she's a bit grateful that there's someone unbiased to her world of university studies and to whom she can complain to), and then I made it out to buy groceries. Now I'm back in my cold room, waiting for my new Hello Kitty (ask no questions... they were cheap and soft at H&M) sweat pants to dry (hallelujah, clean laundry!). Tomorrow I go back to the basement of the Museum of Occupational History and watch and transcribe more movies. And then weekend!

Side note: it's much colder here than in Landau... I already started missing it as soon as I got out of the car at the airport (the mother of the kid I tutored drove me up this morning), but ended up being too tired to shed any more than 5 or so tears. Alas, exhaustion. Also, it's mandarine oranges from Spain season in Riga, which means endless supplied of tastiness for me. I loves them, I really does.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'm waiting in the airport for my flight to Frankfurt right now. All I've had to eat today is half a cup of drinkable Latvian yogurt, and one of those "milk and cereal" bars which, considering my semi-lactose intolerance and the upcoming flight, may not have been the best courses of action. And thinking about whether or not I've managed to pack everything... Don't you love that feeling of knowing you've probably forgotten something but can't figure out what it is?

I wish I could sleep on planes, because I am waaaay tired right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Like Pelmeni

This post will be quick and easy, like a tasty-but-overly-filling Latvian "fast food" favorite that is Russian in origin. Am I overstepping my promise?

For those of you following along with posts, or with family gossip, today I had to take the Test DaF (German as a foreign language proficiency exam). I feel like I did rather well on the exam, but will have to wait six weeks to find out how I really did.

In other news, I leave for a one-week vacation to Germany tomorrow afternoon. I'll be visiting friends, doing some much needed and missed German shopping, and just taking it easy. This seems like the first vacation in a long time that will actually be just that - a vacation. My only other motives are to make a visit to talk to someone from the University I'd like to apply to next year, and to find a spectacular hair conditioner that I've been trying to hunt down for a month, and figured out is sold in a salon in Ludwigshafen. SCORE.

And I'm tired, I haven't packed, and I haven't gone "ciemakukulis" shopping. That means I haven't stocked up on goods from Latvia for peeps in Germany.

Kaija out.

Friday, November 9, 2007

aaaaaaaAAAAAHHHH, FREAK OUT! (le freak, c'est chic)

This past week has been full of good and bad freak-out moments.

Sunday: I got to places late (it was the 's fault for being down all weekend) and ended up missing a second singing-night at one relatives house, and never made it to the other relatives to pick up a letter they've been holding for me for two weeks now. Freaking out because of social commitments not kept.

Monday: Had my job interview, got said job. Said job pays well, considering the national average income, the national minimal income, and the fact that this will be my first real, full-time gig. Freaking out because.. duh!

Tuesday: Once again, I repeat - "What happened to Tuesday?" Now I remember! Tuesday after work was the cigar smoking/informational night + cognac. I didn't smoke any cigars, but learned a good deal about them. I did drink some (free) cognac. Freaking out because I thought I would smell terrible from the cigar smoke and make the person sitting next to me on the bus vomit.

Wednesday: An e-mail from my future employers lets me know that we have to wait a month before the NVA office processes their part of the documents I ultimately need to turn in. The employer has to "register" the vacancy, which is then advertised in the local job market, and if they can't find a local to fill the position in that month only THEN are they allowed to hire me. So now we basically wait for a month and do nothing. Freaking out because I WON'T BE HERE in a month and because now I have to find a better way to turn in my documents to the embassy in the U.S. (Washington D.C.), which is considerably farther from Minnesota than Tallinn or Vilnius are from Riga and I do NOT want to pay $500 just to turn in a packet of papers.

Thursday: nothing significant happened on Thursday; Wednesdays events were sufficient to carry over any left-over freak-outiness.

Friday (today): while contemplating how to formulate my issues to the Latvian embassy in D.C. I found some vital and joy-inducing information on their website. I am allowed to send my precious documents per post to the embassy, in the event I myself cannot show up to personally hand them in (although they reserve the right to request my presence anyhow). Freaking out because this lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders and makes my life just that much easier. True, I have to send all kinds of things that I'll definitely want to insure because if I lose them I'm screwed, but it's better than buying a plane ticket.

Overall: freaking out because next week is the TestDaF, and I need to ace it in order to apply to graduate school in Germany. O. M. G. The day after the test I leave for a one-week vacation to Germany. Time is seriously flying by.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Life Without Me

That's kind of what it feels like this week. I'm going through the motions, but there's absolutely no Me Time. Before I jump back to last week's events, let me outline what THIS week is like for me:

M: work 9.30-6 p.m., operetta 7 p.m.-10ish, home by 10:45.

T: work 9.30-5 (although because of traffic I only got in at 10), English teaching 6-7.30, home by 8:30, bed by 10.

W: work 9.30-5.30 (but once again due to traffic only got in at 10), English teaching 6-7.30, babysitting (a.k.a. hanging out with some super cool kids and their rabbit) 7.35-?, home by ??.

Th: free day? if so, then family time with my cousin, but not before I sleep in until at least 9. Then English teaching sometime in the evening. Also at some point in the day I need to swing by the post office and pick up my book order.

F: work 9.30-5.30. If I don't pass out by the time I get home, I may do something that evening. But I also may not. Seriously, it's only Wednesday and I'm dragging.

Sa: maybe more family time with some extended cousins.

Su: if weather permits, beach ultimate frisbee!!! I really need to go out and use this pent-up energy. Monday we had to run to the trolley, and it was maybe the best 20 seconds of the day. So the obvious remedy to pent-up energy is to chase a plastic disc around the beach in 40-degree weather. Hah! Like there's a better option!

Last Week

Thursday: Last week was normal except for morning traffic (of which there was none due to the fact that it was fall break for grade schools), and the Thursday-to-Friday time span. Thursday after work I went with the other two women to the new language school facilities opening of a translation company. It was good to see where the building was, as I have an interview with them next Monday, and also good to spend some time "off duty" with the others. The only down side of the part was that there were two -count 'em, TWO - mimes roaming around the party. For me, mimes fall in the same category as clowns. They don't scare me, per se, but the make me extremely uncomfortable. Every time the mimes ended up in the same room as we were, I'd get really quiet and avoid looking up. Needless to say, my kind-of-boss and others we were talking to figured out what was up and tried helping by saying things like "Don't turn around any time soon." On the plus side, there was free wine. So you take the bad with the good, am I right?

After the opening, I headed back home, took a quick nap, got ready, took the wrong "mikrins" (=that mini-van/bus thing), got off the wrong mikrins, got on the right one, and met two friends in the center to go to a concert. The concert started at 12 a.m. and was, sadly, over in less than an hour and a half. The band playing was Astro'n'out -- they're good stuff, but it's a shame it was over so fast. Then we sat around the club until 4 a.m. to avoid wandering around in the cold, hit up a cafe at 5 and waited until the first public transport started rolling. So I made it home on Friday by 6:20 a.m., said good morning to my flatmate (who was getting ready for school), and crashed until about 2 p.m.

The Riga club experience wasn't what we had expected--the venue could be partly responsible for that. One of the friends was asked to dance 12 times (we finally decided that seating arrangement had nothing to do with it, and that one of the deciding factors could have been the eye-catching white and black pattern of her blouse. In truth, it might have been the most noticeable in the entire club :p ), the other was asked by a man who looked like a logger, and I was just quasi-moelsted by a creepy old drunk man asking for the time, and who without permission picked up my arm to look at my watch. I just kept telling him in English "WHAT? SORRY, I DON'T UNDERSTAND. WHAT?", while he slurred back and forth from Latvian to Russian.

Friday: I took the day off (durr) and did some laundry.

Saturday: Saturday morning I went to what was supposed to be a live graffiti art show down town, but turned out to be two hours of standing in the cold while one artist slowly set up his area and then started spraying. Four artists were supposed to "perform" - two from Riga and two from...another big city somewhere. One of them I kind of know by his work, as I've seen it around Riga many times and have come to like it very much. He, unfortunately, seemed to have hit up the exhibit area earlier in the day or maybe even over night (possibly to remain anonymous?), because his "piece" was already complete. I think the problem was that the guys had all the time in the world to work on what they were going to paint, and so they did take their time. I thought it would be done faster, as they might paint on the side of a bridge or a building. But no. I eventually left without seeing the second guy finish his picture, because I couldn't feel my toes anymore.

Later Saturday night I went with a new acquaintance (a now Latvian-American from Montana [she basically grew up in Germany but has been in the U.S. for 10 or so years]) to see "Good Luck, Chuck!" The movie wasn't as bad as I had thought it would be. It was run in English with Latvian and Russian subtitles. A very interesting experience.

Sunday: Ah, yes, the night of the George Armistead anniversary event. Since it was a Christian Businessman club organizing it, I had imagined a darker room with velour drapes and a huge fireplace, with a cigar in each person's hand - kind of a stereotypical "men's club." It turned out to be a well-lit sit-down buffet dinner while several businessmen explained why or how they had become Christian Businessmen. Very little was said about Armistead's accomplishments (just that he had many).

Monday: spent the day at work and then headed off to Riga's Musical Theater to see a performance of "Die Bajadere." It wasn't as glamorous or superb as I had expected it to be, but hey, the tickets were complimentary, and at least I got out and did something!

Tuesday: arrived at work 30 minutes late due to stupid traffic and with a fuzzy, heavy head. I think the cold weather and wind messed me up. Got home after 8, went to bed at 10.

Today (Wednesday): I'm once again alone in the office until the other two get back from a lecture-breakfast and short meeting. And I once again arrived 30 minutes late - I left the apartment at 8:15, which guarantees that within half an hour, at least one of the right buses will leave the depot (usually about 5 are supposed to go through the stop between 8:15 and 45). The bus came as it should, but then the traffic... Words cannot explain. If it was warmer I'd ask to use my flatmate's bike, because this is RIDICULOUS. If I take the train it's a 20+ minute walk to the office... I think I have to make a decision soon.

p.s. Happy Halloween. They don't really do that here. It's Kekatas, thankyouverymuch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not So Manic Monday

I have a visitor in the office today!! One of the two bookkeepers decided to come in to work today, so I'm not completely alone anymore. Although, I have to admit that I liked the solitude. So today I'm working *ahem* on the Burns Supper article (which I might just write at home since I work better with my own computer, but at least I can write up an outline and print off notes here), and entering email addresses and birthdays into the database.

Yesterday and today the weather is considerably better: no rain, but it's colder. This morning it was 21 degrees outside. We're not supposed to get any rain at all this week, which will be nice. People were scraping frost off of their car windows--gaaah even though a car offers certain comforts, I'm SOOO glad I won't be spending 10-15 minutes of my morning transition to work scraping car windows.

Last night I had dinner with the relatives (excellent chicken marinated French-style, mushrooms, wine, melon, oranges, chocolate, baked was like Christmas, I'm telling you...) and came home thoroughly stuffed and barely able to move. I haven't eaten that much since...probably since the last time I was at my grandparents' house, where one must mandatorily stuff oneself because the food is just that good and none of it must go to waste. I even got to take some leftovers with me from last night, which saved me from having to go out and buy lunch. Other times I can bring lunch from home if I wake up in time to throw together a salad (which I definitely didn't have time to do today...someone learned to shut out her new alarm tone too quickly and overslept by 45 minutes, giving her only 30 minutes to get ready and make it to the bus stop on time), or if my flatmate's mother whips up a massive amount of food the one time a week she visits and I'm left with a quasi-box lunch (mostly it comes in jars).

So after researching this Burns Supper, I really hope I'll be in the country to attend it. The exec. director already said that if I'm here next year, I'll for sure be able to get an invite and be updated on the info regarding the event. If I do get a job in LV for the next year, and do attend the Burns Supper, I'm going to need a dress. A fancy one. I don't work well with fancy dresses. Honestly.

I'm off to input data.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bo(red) and 2 hours from Weekend

Right now I'm sitting in the office I intern at, doing relatively nothing. I've finished the top three things they wanted me to do while they were gone in London (oh yeah, I should mention that--they went to London for a thing and I stayed here to babysit the office and plants). I've spent so much time staring at the director's computer screen that I'm getting sick to my stomach, my vision is swimming, etc. I had to send out individual emails to each member, asking them to double check the contact information on the website (which I corrected if it was wrong or needed updating) and asking them when their birthdays were (so they can, in the future, receive birthday greetings. Some people were happy someone asked when their birthday was (ex: "P.S. does this mean I'll get a present?") while others weren't pleased at all (ex: "...this is a personal matter. Please respect my wishes." etc.).

Then I got to call EVERY SINGLE foreign embassy in Riga to ask for the ambassadors' personal contact info for future invites. Wow. That was...interesting. I had my speech so memorized that I literally stopped thinking about WHAT I was saying and started listening to HOW it sounded. It was an interesting skill to put to use, I guess, listening to yourself talk. I even got to speak to the personal assistant of the German Ambassador--in German. We started out in English, but then I decided to switch and she goes, "Oh, you speak German." and continued in German. I was so excited that I got to speak German again that my hands were shaking when I put down the phone.

I also had to update the website, check it for grammatical errors and so on. That was easy.

The last task I'm saving for Monday, otherwise I'll have to sit here alone again with nothing to do. Luckily, yesterday, a relative passed on another translation job to me--this one was a booklet on Development Cooperation (big UN and EU aid effort thing) that was supposed to be done by Wednesday, but somehow wasn't. So at 3 P.M. on Thursday I get a call, take on the job, promise it will be done by noon today (Friday). But after work I had English lessons again, and there's always traffic to consider.

Can anyone guess how many hours of sleep I DIDN'T get last night? I'm not exhausted yet, but I'm toying with the idea of curling up in a corner on the floor and taking a quick nap.

But the booklet (6 pages plus last minute search-and-find revisions courtesy of the organization) is finished and sent off, I feel pretty good about it, I guess. They can always cross check the information on all of the English language websites listed in the booklet. Kaija's rolling in the money, it seems. This week I was paid for last week's and this week's English lessons, plus one conversation workshop lesson--a total of...36LVL, which in a way is just like $36, but is actually more like $72. SHAZAM! It definitely pays to make some money here and then convert it to $$ later, if necessary. These puppies are going to the bank, though. But, oh, goodie, I have some kind of income!

Since I didn't get a day of at all this week, I'm hoping I can convince them to let me take at least 1.5 days off next week. Especially Friday. Because there's a concert I'm going to. Yes, going to, I've made up my mind. But this weekend will be absolute relaxation weekend. No grocery shopping (unless absolutely unavoidable, which I don't think it will be), no other stuff shopping, no nothing. Sleep and books and sleep.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Lights Are Flickering

There's supposed to be a big big storm tonight. So what better way to spend it than by making home-made cheesey pasta and drinking some wine?

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I miss hot chocolate (okay, so I haven't exactly gone looking for it) and I miss fireplaces.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm an Adult and it kind of Sucks


Even though this new office is technically better situated (a brighter, less touristy area with coffee shops and cafes just down the street), I'm getting up at almost 7 A.M. in order to be at the bus stop by 8:30 to make the 8:32 bus that usually gets to the city center a bit before 9:30, which is when I'm supposed to be at work. HAH! I'm surprised I haven't fallen asleep on the way into the center yet. So 9:30 to around 5:15-5:30 at work, a lunch break somewhere around there, and then it's time to leave. However, it's basically useless to try and get home during this time, as it will take the bus around an hour just to hit two stops before getting out of the city center. So I generally try to walk around the city for a while (one does need to get some fresh air now and then) and pass some time until 6:30 0r 7, when the buses are still packed, but the traffic is a bit lighter. So I might be gone from 8:15 to 7:30 each day.

Like I said, I'm an adult and it kind of sucks.

Then what do I do when I get home? With the short amount of time I have before 11 P.M. (once again I'm keeping a semi-strict weekday bedtime policy), there's dinner to deal with if it hasn't been dealt with already, any chores, cleaning up, a shower if that wasn't done in the morning, and then maybe an hour, hour and a half tops, of time to do whatever. Lather, rinse, repeat. GAH! I'm still a bit thrown off by not having homework to do; now there are big-world things to deal with: temp. residence documents, groceries, a review for LatviansOnline (sorry, dad, I'm working on it, I swear), studying for the German test in November, and twice a week giving English "lessons" to the 8-year-old daughter of an English Learning Center I have a job offer from. *cry* I get it, I get it, my parents had it hard, your parents had it hard, and we were all bratty kids watching TV and wanting dinner to be ready and not understanding what they went through.

But at least they got/get paid for what they're doing.

On to happier things!
This past weekend I took a day trip with relatives to Sigulda, where I had a mission to buy my grandfather a "traditional wooden cane. From Sigulda. And don't pay more than Ls10 for it." The cane was bought, sights were seen, and a certain amount of fun was had. I wasn't feeling up to par on Saturday, so on some level I was in a bad or offish mood all day. I didn't mentally feel that way, but one of my relatives picked up on the fact that something wasn't right. Anyway, even though every day during past week has had an 80+% humidity level, it didn't start raining until later in the day, when we had already stopped for dinner. We got to see some fantastic rainbows--even saw a full one. All in all it was a good day and nice to once again get out of the city. Sigulda is fantastic, and, as I understand it, a popular place to go to during the fall because of the beautiful colors that can be seen there. It was clear to see why. Sigulda is definitely the type of city I could live in. There are a lot of trees, parks, paths to walk's less crowded than Riga. Plus the fresh air is nice. I like cities, but I like the suburbs better. VIVA SUBURBIA!

Since I have tomorrow off I can spend some time posting pictures. The first FB link is full to the brim (be sure to check that for updated photos), so a second album has been made. At this rate, there might even be a third. The new FB album link is here. I'll post pictures on here as well under a different post heading.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Place of Internshipping No.2

Today was my first day at place of internshipping #2. I mostly did busy work: I made up and printed out name tags for Monday's evening event (meet and greet the new British ambassador), start a "phone list" of all of the companies that are members, and stuff envelopes with event receipts to send out to the members. Busy work, like I said, but they did say that I saved them an entire day's worth of work, so at least I'm being productive.

The office has windows, it's bright, there is absolutely NO funny smell, and the other two people in the office (yah, three of us, total) are nice and communicable. BIG change from the museum, where only two to three out of...10 or more people talked to me like normal sociable human beings. And as we all know I don't require much social attention, it speaks volumes when even I end up complaining about silence.

Today lasted from 9:30-5ish, with a wake-up time of...7:15 (blaarrrfh) I'm surprised I didn't pass out on the bus ride into the city center. There's also a Coffee Nation a few blocks down from the office, so I can't think of a much better locatio.

What surprised me today was that after only a few hours of being in the office, the Exec. Director came and asked me what my plans after internshipping were. I told her about the possibility with the English Learning center, etc., and she explained then, that one of the BCCL's members, a translation company, had gotten a copy of my CV and wanted to talk to me about a job possibility. I said that was funny, because I had sent them my CV a few months back and had gotten no reply. I was then informed that the Latvian CV sending system is weird, and apparently it's necessary for someone on the "inside" to send the document before it actually gets noticed.

Long story short (how many times have I used this phrase, only to end up lying to you?), the rep. from the translation company wants to talk to me at the event on Monday and hope that something could be worked out. Now I have to figure out where my loyalties are. The English learning center got back to me first and technically has offered me a job for 2008. On the other hand, they're a new company, not even a year old, and are asking me if I can take on classes to teach NOW, even though I've expressly stated that I have other obligations.

The translation company has been around since 1994, is well known, respected, and most importantly, if you haven't caught on, IS A TRANSLATION COMPANY. They also offer English lessons, but my guess is that that's not what I'd be good for to them. I posed this job-market ethics question to the BCCL Exec. Director, and she said, "Job market ethics whatever. I'd go with the company that's established itself and been around longer, and the one that pays more." Good advice, I guess. I haven't decided yet what to do. We'll see what the translation firm offers.

On a different note, tonight I saw a Latvian-made film about agriculture and farming. A sort of documentary, I guess. It was interesting, kind of funny, had lots of animals in it--like a very bossy duckling and a hedgehog who pigged out on milk left out for cats--but I didn't really get the main point. There was all this information about three or four separate families who are in the agriculture business, and then all of a sudden the narrator would talk about global warming, and then all of a sudden about the I think the film was SUPPOSED to be about how Latvia joining the EU affected Latvian farmers. I think. I couldn't watch most of the movie because the camera work was really shaky. Put me on a roller coaster and I could fall asleep, but show me a movie with bad camera handleage, and I get sick to my stomach.

On the way to the bus stop I was talking to my relative when a British guy suddenly joined her under her umbrella. Then another guy from the group decided he would join me under my umbrella; at least they asked us if it was okay, which I guess it was, and at his request I let him hold the umbrella because he was taller, but on the condition that he wouldn't steal it from me (which he promised he wouldn't do). This then turned into a 5 minute conversation on how my English was very good (which I then had to explain), where I was from in the U.S., then the assumption that I had heard of cheerleading (apparently he was a male cheerleader. from the UK. I don't get it.), how I didn't seem impressed (who would be?!), how I explained that cheerleading was, stereotypically, not respected in the U.S., and how he explained that in the south it was respected more than in the north, and why I was in Latvia in the first place. Then I got my umbrella back from him, taught him how to say, "Hi, my name is Rob" in Latvian (which he'll probably forget, they had been involved in alcoholic activities), then shook hands and said our farewells.

So today I started a new job, saw a movie that almost made me physically sick, and met a British cheerleader named Rob. Too much excitement for one Friday, I think...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Real Day Off

So...this intern just got a call from place-of-internshipping No. 2 saying that because the book keeper is coming in to work tomorrow, I'm not expected to come in until Friday morning.


So, tomorrow, I plan on taking an ACTUAL day off. The only non-day-off activities I will partake in are 1) going to the unfriendly cobbler to retrieve my shoes and 2) calling the Immigration Office's temp. citizenship office to hopefully finally figure out how this work permit/visa thing works. Now the story is that I can't get a work permit without a residence visa, which is the complete opposite of what I was told before.

Other than that, I plan on staying at home. Maybe reading something, maybe study a bit for the test, maybe sleep all day. Maybe build a fort.

Whatever, it's going to be a day of.

Monday, October 1, 2007

One Month Down

I've been here for almost a month now! ...Uh...what?! Considering that I've gotten a bit bored with watching movies and writing/translating transcripts for them, the month has actually gone by really fast. I feel like I've accomplished, well, nothing--is that what the real world of working folk is like? I go to work, come home from work, and feel special if I can stay awake past 10:30. I'm starting to get scared of what it might be like down the road if I get married and have kids--where's the energy going to come from? Where will the time come from? And if I want to do some traveling or relaxing...? I think this is what it's like. I miss school, I miss homework (all, respectively, to a certain extent. Let's not get too worked up about this), I miss...

My last day (until November 23rd) at the museum is this Wednesday, at which point I'm switching over to the second location of internshipping. I know even less about what will be expected of me than I did for the museum job. But I'm in the dark a lot, here. I found out almost by accident that today (Monday) was a day off for everyone at the museum because, oh wait, the electricity will be cut off to the whole building. I also found out that my supervisor jetted off to Georgia (the country) for something related to the museum, and will be gone for three weeks. I don't think the other two women in the office even knew at first where she was. One even said, "I wonder where she's disappeared to..." So...being an intern apparently means that you're at the bottom of the information food chain. Whatever. I found out by being a super-secret listening spy. Hehehe. That and someone finally told me after I had finished overhearing everything else.

Friday I had my first "conversation workshop" with one of the English learning center's clients. It ended up being a very nice and very nervous young man who was only a few hours away from his Fulbright scholarship interview. He wanted to run through an interview-like setting and have me work with him on Q&A for the interview. I think it went okay, and that his main driving point would have been his desire to get the scholarship, rather than his English speaking ability. All I could hope for was that I didn't make him fail the interview.

This past weekend I went to the Mikelu market (no clue what that would be in English) on Saturday and met up with family, then the other student working at the museum and some of her friends. Lots of walking around, a purchase of a dumb (but cute...) hat, and then lunch at Lido (a Latvian version of Country Buffet, but the food is 10,000 times better). A full day of walking around--the weather was unexpectedly gorgeous. Oh, yeah, before I went to the fair I went through hell to bring a couple of pairs of shoes to be fixed. I took the trolley to the store and everything was going good until the man told me how much it would cost to fix the shoes (almost 5 times more than I had expected it to be), and that they only took cash, and upfront. I had 5Ls with me, which covered only half of the cost. And as the man told me (half in Latvian, half in Russian, even though I CLEARLY told him, "I have absolutely zero comprehension of the Russian language") there was no ATM close by, I literally walked half way home to where the closest bank was. Then I walked back. And then I went to the fair and bought a dumb hat. Do you see how this is all connected??

Sunday I slept in a bit and then packed up my stuff. I moved in to the new apartment yesterday and then went back to the city center to babysit. Basically, I've been going around non-stop this past week. My feet hate me.

Today, since I had a day off, I went back to the English learning center and was egged by the Fulbright scholarship interviewee. But not really. I went back to meet with one of the directors to go over the programs they offer in greater detail. For now they want to give me some private students for one-on-one teaching (one of them will be the head director's eight year old daughter, who I met tonight, and who is overly excited for English lessons), just so I get some practice in before next year. Then I had lunch with another family friend from Minnesota (Ausma); once again, it was great to see a familiar face from the other side of the world, and get candy that my mom had sent me :P Yay, candy! Then I went home, tried going to a nearby shopping center to get towels but missed the stop because it has a different name when you're heading toward the city center, and went back into Old Riga and bought a month-pass for the bus system. Then I headed back home, found the right stop for the shopping center, got my goods, and finally made it back with enough time for a cappuccino (instant) and cookie-waffle-cream thing with the new roommie (Zane) before heading out to meet the learning center's daughter.

Take a deep breath, 'cause I'm not done yet.

Like I said, her daughter is way excited for English--she was actually asking her mom for just a bit more time when it was time for me to go home. She picked out her own English lesson book; it's really nice and I think I might get a bigger kick out of it than she will. Now I'm back in the apartment. I've had a lot to do these past days, including moving and learning the new route to the center. Lucky for me, the apartment is by the end station for the bus, and if in doubt, I can just get off at the other end station in the city center. The bus also goes down the street where my second place of internshipping will be. Hurrah for convenience!

It's kind of sad to be away from the first family I lived with--they had cats, you know. But I'll probably see them again soon, and I'm thankful that they let me stay with them and that I had the chance to get to know them. They're a fun family :)

Right now...I'm beat. Completely tired. I have actual dark circles under my eyes. In 60 minutes I'm going to bed. For real.

Pictures of the Mikelu market and the new apartment coming tomorrow. Be good until then.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Working Weekends

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'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.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

No Fighting, No Mushrooms

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...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

First Week Complete

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 ( - 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 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.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Official Days 1, 2, & 3

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.

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.