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.