I feel so conflicted knowing there’s only one and a half days left here in Riga.
Today has been a bit of a sick/rest day, poor Lennox is in bed already and it’s only 5pm, little trooper. I did get to go to Wood Religion, couldn’t get in as a walk-in yesterday so booked myself in for 11am today, Saturday, for a sweet sweet haircut.
I love wood, you could say it’s a religion for me; I had my bass custom made from quilted maple and mahogany so you know it’s in my blood, so this barbershop is aptly named to attract my kind. They play old jazz and all the barbers are smartly dressed (I wore my purple pants and nice shoes rather than shorts and jandals as to not offend!) So this place is pretty much heaven. Oh, and I can’t forget they offer Scotch while you wait. I had a water, have to have SOME standards.
45 minutes of sheer bliss, and my barber is an artist. Wow what a great haircut! My barber is quiet, determined, and a credit to his craft. The cut isn’t just good, it’s life changing, the way Riga has been. It’s not what you cut, it’s what you leave behind, and as we leave Riga behind, it’s left an indelible mark on me. I’m sad to leave.
Riga is where we have found our travelling feet – Oslo was a good start but didn’t feel real because we weren’t there long enough – I have a new appreciation for anyone moving to an English-speaking country for the first time. It’s difficult dealing with the stress of grumpy people trying to make a living and you’re in the way using your broken Latvian attempting to get eggs.
People are grumpy here, but after doing some research it’s easy to understand why. Latvia joined the European Union only recently, but it’s had a pretty drastic negative effect on employment and general prosperity. Manufacturing has been closed, three sugar plants closed laying off hundreds of people in rural areas. Jobs are scarce and so people have to make do by going back to the land, or by heading to cities like Riga. Like Kiwis, Latvians never complain, but you can tell most days there’s not a lot of celebrating going on. I have a real soft spot now for Latvians in general, they have fought since 1200 to keep their country with varying degrees of success, and this is really the first time in a long time they haven’t had an overlord like Russia or Germany. So a quiet, reserved optimism is here, if you look hard enough for it.
Latvia pulls itself up by its bootstraps every day and gives it a go again. I’m thankful for this trip, and for the new perspective I have. I’m so damn lucky to be doing this. We decided to do it, yes, but things have come together like work projects and finding Te Kura which helps guide is in teaching the kids.
This is a daily post, starting now I want to make my best effort to do one short post a day mainly so I don’t forget all this I’m seeing and learning. To that end, my feelings for Riga are it is a dear friend I understand but don’t get to talk to much, a friend I admire but can’t get very close to. We are bus mates who barely acknowledge each other after 10 years of back and forth.
I love the simplicity of life here, how the buses tell you what stop is next, “Nakama piltura…”, I like how Latvian has words like Spanish, others like Russian (don’t tell them I said that!) and others that are all their own (meaning most of them). But mostly I enjoy the pagan belief here, and even the superstitions. These combine to teach Latvians that doing good is as much ritual as behaviour.
Buses are repainted, dented, but everyone uses them and they are brutally on time and efficient. The wind here though the trees is magical. The plaster crumbles off walls that are in desperate need of repair, but those same walls hide mysteries, and normal life. Most buildings look like fortresses against theft and the long winters, but also havens for people against old regimes and for new ideas.
I really like how people are focused and direct, and utilitarian. Nothing is wasted and rubbish is cleaned up with dedication by teams of workers travelling two by two. Parks are large but lightly populated, I’ve never felt crowded here except on a bus.
That’s it, these dailies are going to get more focused and generally better, but that’s it for now.
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