Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Post Valmiera, Pre Stockholm

Exciting past few days, I’ll say that right off the bat.

Saturday I made a “latviesu maminu" dinner (Latvian mother dinner, as in the food kept coming and coming) and had two of my friends over in my "ghetto". One of them felt right at home, seeing as she lives in a similar apartment complex area about ?? minutes away, depending on the mode of public or non-public transportation you're using. We laughed, we ate, we drank some good wine I got on sale at Stockman (Gallo sauvignon?).

Sunday I drove with relatives to Valmiera to climb the Zilaiskalns (blue hill/mountain), which is called that due to the bluish haze or fog that often sits around its top. It was there a bit on Sunday, but the weather was once again gorgeous (jealous yet, Mid-West?), so not too much haze. The hill is a geological/sacred ground with all kinds of crazy energy flowing in and around it. There are 5 or so points marked out on the hill, one huge central one and at least 4 off to the sides, each marked with a circle and then with a centre point. You stand on the centre point of each circle and just sort of feel what’s going on. On the first spot we went to, “Imantas peak” or mound (not much peak there), I kind of felt my right arm start to raise, and the necklace my relative had definitely swung in circles when she held it over the centre point. I am well aware that we are influence not only by nature but also by the cosmos, blah blah blah, and I understand that the necklace wasn't moving on its own. Think of it like a subconscious energy movement. In the biggest circle under this watch-tower they have set up there, my relatives all felt "nice", their pains were alleviated, etc. I got a sickish pressure in my head and had to back up off of the thing. I refused to go near it for the rest of our stay on the top of the hill (which is, by the way, 66 m tall). A different side circle made me feel totally relaxed and like I didn't have a care in the world – definitely a good place to stand before finals week if you’re a student! The last circle sort of amplified everything about the nature around it; the birds sang clearer, you could smell the soil, and the wind seemed closer (if that’s possible). We decided that, even though it wasn’t the main circle, it was definitely the most powerful one. All in all a cool trip. On the way home we stopped at Diklu pils (Diklu palace - though it was more of a manor) for an expensive but tasty lunch. Then I slept on the way home, as I had promised to do.

Monday on the way home from work I stopped into Gastronome, this fancy deli-type place with a good salad bar and all kinds of delicious foods and spirits. I bee-lined it to the spirits. On Sunday I had learned that this absolutely to melt for after-dinner French wine could be bought there. So I bought a bottle, around 12 LVL. Basically, I bought a $25 bottle of after-dinner wine. I am SO adult now.

This week is a short week for most everyone in Latvia - Thursday and next Monday are holidays, making Wednesday kind of a half day (so one of my colleagues told me). Wednesday night my friends and I are taking the ferry to Stockholm! It's a 16-hour trip, but we're really excited for it. We really lucked out with the hotel, too. It’s right across from the Central metro station and a quality place. Normal prices are insane, but we managed to find a good deal on Priceline.com - the only issue was that Priceline would only let us book Thursday night, not Friday's as well. So we booked Thursday and I called the hotel to speak with the woman I had spoken to before. She asked why, again, had we done that, and I told her, then she put me on hold. When she came back she said she could give us the Priceline price so we could book the same room for Thursday and Friday and not have to switch floors. I assumed the Friday price would be their standard rate, but then she said, "Oh, no, I checked, it's okay. I can give you the Internet price.” HUZZAH!


From when I started to write this post to now, I’ve had lunch at a restaurant called "The Flying Frog", made a half-dozen phone calls, and re-organised the transportation to Stockholm. The game plan now is as such:

Take a bus from Riga to Tallinn;

Spend 12 in Tallinn doing something to make 12 hours pass bearably;

Take a ferry from Tallinn to Stockholm;

Get to Stockholm;

Spend one-point-five days in Stockholm;

Take a ferry from Stockholm back to Riga.

Confusing, no?

Anywho, at least we’re going to Stockholm (the reason all of this round-about-ness is taking place is because we waited a bit too long to book tickets for the Riga-Stockholm ferry, but managed to get spots on the Tallinn-Stockholm route. Genius!)!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Truth About Cinderella

So, that Cinderella ballet my friends and I saw? One of the friends sent me an SMS today informing me of what the following article will explain:


Basically the ballet was banned two years ago. And

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I have the worst stir-crazies right now. It’s about 52ºF right now in Riga (I’m listening to MPR and they say it’ll be around 70 in the cities today), and some software is acting funny right now (making progress slower), and I’ve been getting WAY too much sleep lately. Because it's been so nice lately, it's been okay walking through the city from the train station to get to work, but it's more fun to take a mikrinsh (crazy mini-van thing I've mentioned before) and ride through all of the residential areas and see how spring has taken over.

After work I’m meeting up with some friends – our plan is to hit up Pelmeni (like a Russian ravioli, except it’s not pasta, and they're not pancakes...but little filled delicious things), take our dinner to go, then ride the train out to Jurmala and walk off the Pelmeni goodness. It's a good thing the beach is technically so close! Nothing else new has happened today, except that I seem to be accident prone in Riga. The room we sit in at the office makes me sneeze a lot (don’t know how that’s accident prone, but I just remembered the fact), and while trying to set up the GPRS settings for my phone, I turned it off then back on again (like the LMT site told me to), completely forgetting that I need a PIN for this SIM chip. So now I can’t use my phone until I find the little piece of paper with my PIN on it, or until (worst case) go buy a new SIM chip. Seriously, I’m losing my mind.

It’s my flatmate’s birthday today – happy birthday!

Friday, April 18, 2008

First Office Week Dun

My first almost-complete week of work is almost over! I’ve just finished my day’s project. Tonight I'll most likely head over to an acquaintance's Name Day party - in a breach of Latvian social norms, I was invited (rather, she invited everyone), but in her defence, she's not Latvian and I suppose can't be blamed for not following norms :) Either way, that's what's up for tonight, but not too late because I can't miss my bus(es), whichever one I end up needing to take home.

This weekend will contain some more organisation of life, maybe even some pushing-around of furniture (if I can’t buy wires and fasten them into my plaster walls so that I can hang curtains on them to make room divisions, I might as well corner my bed off with the only two bookshelves in my room). I'll make it work.

Tuesday and Wednesday we had gorgeous weather – Wednesday my friend Ilze and I took advantage of the second-day-in-a-row-niceness and went out to the beach (oh yes, the very beach that runs along the Baltic Sea) and took a very long stroll, ate dinner at an actually good Asian cuisine restaurant, and walked back. It was hard to get off of the train once I got home because my hips felt broken. Walking in the sand is a job for an entirely different muscle group.

Let me tell you about what I did LAST night (Thursday). You’ll appreciate this. Thursday night I met up with some friends to see another ballet (we’ve got tickets to pretty much every show until Mat) – this week's show was "Cinderella". All day Thursday I was thinking about how cool it would be to see "Cinderella" as a ballet - I imagined lots of muted and pastel colours, flowing ballet costumes, a light-hearted and romantic story.

Take that image and add to it what YOU know of the Cinderella story. Do you have it in your mind? Now take that story and replace it with a strip-tease. We're talking Cinderella goes interpretive-Moulin-Rouging. WACKED. OUT. Words cannot describe how confusing the first 10 minutes of the ballet were, how disturbing the following 50 minutes were, and how, once the male pimp (the king, perhaps?) gave Cinderella (Cinderella) a couple of crumpled bills for sleeping with the main younger male character (um..Prince?), did we finally get what was going on. The wicked step-mother was the owner of a brothel, the stepsisters traded for six hookers, and the "kingdom" a large group of dandy-ish men in zebra print coat tails. It was... let's put it this way, the “half-time” glass of champagne was well deserved, and we more or less laughed the entire way through. We got some nasty looks from a woman sitting to the left of us, but as we decided during intermission, how are you NOT supposed to laugh? How else are you going to justify sitting through a ballet that, though essentially terrible (I don't think these people are used to interpretive movements... learn classical dance forever and then try to break-dance = FAIL), is bad enough plot wise to be hilarious.

The most heart breaking part was seeing small children running around the halls during intermission – these kids were brought to the ballet by their parents in hopes of seeing something reminiscent of Disney and got nothing but thongs, fishnets, and chaps. At least one of the little girls had on a zebra print dress. Maybe her parents knew one of the dancers?

My computer is still not functional – I can only lean on the left side of the track pad for so long before my hand goes numb. This is being written and posted from the office, but don't get worked up, I've finished my work for the day. I've already been cornered for a large job that will, as I'm told, take up all of Monday. At least I have something to look forward to; otherwise I get in in the mornings and sit for an hour before anything happens. Not that I’m complaining – too much.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

First Day on the Job: Recap

Yesterday we had sun in Riga. The weather was basically the best thing ever. I also had my first day in the office yesterday - I got a quick tour of the office area, learned some names I'd probably forget if it weren't for the past 5 months of working with these people – with their names, at least. So it was more of a name-to-face thing. Then I was seated at my new deskish area – a computer by a functioning wiiiindoooow (read that and think sing-song)- and then told to wait a bit. Then I got my first proofreading job of the day, then another, and then another. All due more or less by 5 p.m. that afternoon. I finished them all with time to spare (an hour and a half of idly sitting at my desk half afraid I'd get some gimongous project right before I intended to leave and half afraid someone would come in and yell at me for not doing anything)! I was asked by someone later how many people worked in the office - I guesstimated 20, give or take a few. Most of them seem to be project managers, and those seem to keep multiplying. I met one of the ones previously unknown to me yesterday when I was handed one of the jobs to proofread, bringing the total of project managers known to Kaija to nine. My first day in the office was "normal" (a popular Latvian answer to almost anything) - no drama, no overworkedness, no tears. When I was first brought around to meet some of the other employees already in for the day, a few of them were all "Kaija? Oh good, you're finally here! Nice to see you in person."

Recap of my day + what came after:

Come in to work at 9, work until 3:30, sit and wait for 5 to roll around, then after work head off across the street to Gastronome, an absolutely tasty gourmet deli-type place. They have an actual restaurant attached to the deli/store part, but I don't care about it. Picked up some Greek salad, penne pasta salad with duck (the duck tastes weird, but the pasta and veg bits are good), and small French bread rolls for some good eating later on. Then I went and visited with one of many relations on this side of the world and her kids (to those who know them, Amanda and Co.), and got home around 10 with an hour to do absolutely whatever my little heart desired until 11 when it's bedtime. I feel like an 8th grader. But hey, in bed by 11:30 the latest, up at 7:30 - I can't say I don't feel great in the mornings; I'm probably earning some health points along with walking almost everywhere.

As of now I’ve had two small jobs to do today: one about thealine, which is an amino acid found in tea leaves (most commonly green and black teas) that makes the alpha waves in the brain’s cortex go ooey-ooey, making the mind and body alert yet relaxed, and the other regarding some recording or taping studio and its service list. And then there’s nothing. It looks like I may be done for the day. That leaves…3.5 hours until I can go home without feeling guilty about whatever!

And yes, my computer’s still broken. I was able to get it running a bit last night and this morning by applying some pressure to the left side of the track pad, which apparently makes the connection between the motherboard and whatever existent. Other options for do-it-yourself fixes (which are invasive as opposed to pressure application) include (but are not limited to) placing a burning tea light+ some fuels on the motherboard once you've cracked your computer open. I'll pass.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back for Round Two!

For those of you who did not receive my succinct and detail-less e-mail, I've arrived back in Riga, ready for round two of "Can She Become a Temp. Resident?"

The flights were normal enough, save for the semi left-body-disabled Russian man sitting next to me from Chicago to Frankfurt. Because I was able to sleep more than usual on planes, I didn't have to ask him to let me out so I could use the toilets. And in a move not reciprocating my sensitivity to his physical situation, my bladder and I got to wait with him and the overly perky flight attendant until 95% of all people on board were off the aircraft and someone finally found his cane for him, which ended up being right next to his backpack where the flight attendant had placed and then forgotten about it.

I understand, I understand, the man was elderly and had physical difficulties. But I sat with my legs crossed for 8 hours respecting that; I guess I thought he'd at least shuffle over to the seat across the aisle and chill out there, letting me get past and on with my travels. No such luck.

Side note: between the evening I began to write this post and now, my computer crashed once more, and appears to be out of commission until i can find a trustworthy person on this side of the ocean to fix it. Sadness for me - but thanks to the goodness of my flatmate's heart, I can use her computer to take care of business.

My first half day in Riga I spent time running around the city looking for an LMT store, only to discover later that the mall 10 minutes from our apartment has a branch store located right in it. I didn't get a chance to meet up with my friends due partly to not having a working SIM chip for my phone, and partly because around 17:30 I was BEAT. I almost fell asleep on the bus ride back home. Then I got back in the evening and got my computer to work for at least two hours, during which time I was able to call my mother, my father, and my friends (to let them know I was done for the night and to ask what they were doing tomorrow - to which one of them answered, "Oh, you're coming to the ballet with us!" Many more ballets will be seen in the coming weeks, as it seems they bought tickets to all the shows running until May) via Skype. Skype - cheap telephony that works! Then I straightened up my room, actually put everything away, and went to bed.

Sunday I got up, made a dash for the mall, got a phone chip, let people know about it, and met my friends in the city centre for a late breakfast before the ballet. The ballet was a comedy, with elements of Shakespeare love triangles and concealed identities/dressing up as a member of the opposite sex to play tricks on people, and would have all probably made more sense if a) one of us had sprung for a programme or b) we could read the banner held up in the first scene of the ballet that had large white RUSSIAN words printed on it. At half-time we went to the refreshments room and half-jokingly I said we should get champagne (also as kind of a welcome-back-Kaija-celebratory-item) and they said "Why not, we've done it every other time we've come here!" WELL! So, 12 o'clock noon, let's say, and there we were, sipping champagne among other audience members doing the same and laughing like silly women.

I also learned that, while you can civilly sip your champagne during the intermission, when the bell dings for calling the audience back to the auditorium, it's time to CHUG. That was equally entertaining to the Trockadero-like part of the ballet - the bell goes 'ding' and the three of us stop sipping and stop chatting and just tip glasses back. The second half of the ballet was more amusing, and not just because of the champagne.

Today I got a hold of the person I was supposed to get a hold of and determined that today I'm going to spend some time trying to figure out a way to get my computer fixed, and that tomorrow I'll be going in to work. For the first. Time. Everrrrrrrrrr.