Six years after moving to Latvia, I feel that I should have some answers to the most important questions about the place - how do things work, how do people interact and how does one get things done. Instead, every month that I stay here, I find more questions. Hopefully, this blog will allow me to air some questions and find some answers, or perhaps just new questions.
I saw a wonderful sight the other day, while walking the dog on some waste land on the ''wrong'' side of Kipsala. Three children - all boys - of about 7 or 8 years old (the same age as those I teach) were playing on a piece of waste ground attempting to open an old can of paint with a rock. What is so great about that? I hear people ask. Well it is a reminder that Latvia, despite the headlines on the front page of Friday's Diena (Bridinajums vecakiem) has a long way to go before it reaches the same state of paranoia as my country, England. Lasi
I spent part of November 18th chatting to an economist about the state of Latvia's finances. This was not a conversation that I was well prepared for. A degree in environmental science and a career as teacher has left me very poorly equipped to discuss economic policies, and generally quite happily so. But I have been confused recently by the huge gaps between what Latvians say about their economy and what I read in the foreign press. Lasi
I've always enjoyed seeing what foriegn coverage events in Latvia manage to get overseas. Sadly, it often seems that the events most well covered are those that portray the country in a fairly negative light, as demonstrated by the fairly light coverage of Saturday's protests. Without any blood or fireworks, arrests or police brutality, it seems that a country taking advantage of its rights to protest about the way the government works is of little interest to the rest of the world. Lasi
I was so happy to see an article in Diena about houseboats that I actually took the trouble, with my dreadful Latvian, to read it all the way through. It was a pleasure to read that people in Latvia are interested in living on houseboats, and that others have seen the potential for a waterborne existence in this maritime territory. However, I was also dissapointed in both the author and the 'experts' she consulted for their concentration on only the top, and least interesting, part of the houseboat market. Lasi
I am in the unfortunate, if entirely of my own making, position of spending quite a lot of time behind the wheel of a car, simply because I live in Riga and work in Jurmala. This combination does have one advantage that the drivers of cars going (or rather not going, as is more commonly the case) in the opposite direction do not have - I travel twice a day against the flow of the worst of the traffic. Needless to say, I generally feel quite smug about this, so it came as something of a shock the other day when I had to go to school and then drive straight back into town, placing myself firmly in the worst of the rush hour traffic. I was horrified at the prospect, but tried to calm my shaking hands by reminding myself that some people do this every day, and thinking about the reduced chances of fatal accidents at speeds that rarely get above twenty. In the event, the drive back into town was just - well, boring really. You sit in traffic with nowhere to go and nothing to do and watch your fellow drivers watching you. And looking around, I realised that the same is also true for the majority of other drivers: in a situation that seemed the height of frustration - to be stuck on the way to work, when people have tasks to get to and important things to do - everyone seemed to accept their fate with a calmness that was frankly astounding. In a city that is not famed for the good manners, or patience, of its drivers, it appeared that the regular morning drive had reduced all of them to the same level of dumb acceptance that one expects from sheep. Lasi