Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I arrived safely back in the US on July 25 (the same day I left Latvia). The airline didn't even charge me for my overweight luggage even though one suitcase was 10 kilos over! Which was great because I had spent all of my money on books and souvenirs.

I just wanted to write one last blog post thanking all of my devoted readers who have read my blog to see what I have been up over the past year. I was truly an amazing experience and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn more about my most favorite country in the world. I am leaving Latvia to start my PhD at the University of Kansas this fall so its onward to different things while hoping that someday I will get to return to this amazing country.

Thanks so much for reading about all of my Adventures in Latvia!

One last photo of me at the University of Kansas (or KU as everyone around here likes to call it).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Last Day

I had a really crazy last day in Latvia..but I guess that kind of symbolizes my whole year in there, running around trying to take advantage of every opportunity with my research and cultural events.

First I went to an exhibit on Latvian Folk Costumes at the Railway Museum. It cost three lats (around $6.50) which is quite expensive for a museum in Latvia but in the end it was totally worth it.

Then I went souvenir shopping and took advantage of my last opportunity to take my photo at one of my favorite places in Latvia.
After that I headed to Jelgava to see my two favorite Latvian Bands play.
The concert was across the river from the Duke of Courland's can see it in the background behind the stage.

Me at the concert.
The concert was really me coming full circle with Latvia. I went to a concert of Prata Vetra or Brainstorm in 2005. At that time I didn't really know who they were and my Latvian wasn't very good so I couldn't really understand the words. When I went this year not only did I know many of their songs, I could understand all the words and the meanings of the songs. This concert was truly the best way to end my year in Latvia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Little Goodbyes...

I had the brilliant idea to say goodbye to all my friends separately instead of having a party or something before I left. I thought it would be more personable and a better way to say goodbye to everyone. Instead it was actually kind of stressful to try and meet with everyone and finish up research and interviews in my last two weeks. But it was still great to say goodbye to all the friends, new and old, who made my year in Latvia great. Here are just some of my great friends who I will miss tremendously and look forward to seeing again, no matter where in the world they live!

Kathrin, Kristina, Monika and I
The girls from my Latvian language class and a few more friends.
Mara and I
My Latvian teacher and fellow Latvian classmate
Fellow Fulbrighter Tim
Kathrin and I
Britta and I
Zanda, Amanda and I
My work colleague Martiņš

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Early Music Festival

Today I traveled almost the length of Latvia. I went north to Limbaži, well actually Lēdurga for an interview (for my research) and then went to Rundale Palace near Bauska in the south for the Early Music Festival. It was a long but eventful day.

Once again at Rundale Palace
Latin American Baroque Music Concert in the White Ballroom of the palace.
Then we went outside for the final concert in the garden and it was raining so they handed us ponchos! Even President Zatlers who sat behind us watched the performance in the rain.
The final concert with baroque music and dancers. But what happens when dancers try to dance on a wet stage? There were lost of falls and stumbles which at first was kind of funny but then I just felt bad. Luckily no one turned an ankle and the audience was very supportive.
No this is not a forest fire....its just fireworks in the rain.
The back of the palace light up because of the can see everyone in their fashionable ponchos.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Today I went with the embassy people to Cinevilla....or the Hollywood of Latvia. Basically its a city set that they built for the filming of the "Defenders of Riga" the biggest budget Hollywood like film in Latvian history. It was very interesting to see and definitely something I could never have done by myself (it was in the middle of no where 5 km down a dirt road). They let you walk around the set and even dress up in period costumes. Now after seeing the set I feel like I should go see the movie again (especially since they have it with English subtitles) but unfortunately I probably will not have time before I leave. Here are the photos from my adventures.

This bridge actually only goes half way and is made of wood and mostly plastic which is why I didn't venture further out on to it.
The church where a key fighting scene in the movie took place.

The entrance to the bar in the movie.
Me in old town..with German writing in the background.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Academy

Many of the capital cities in Eastern Europe have a very ugly remnant of communist times, some people call it Stalin's birthday cake, others call an eyesore or even the Kremlin. The Latvian Academy of Sciences Building which according to Wikipedia was a gift from the workers and peasants of the other Soviet republics to the Latvian people to mark the borders of Stalin's empire, is a constant reminder to many of the fifty years of Soviet Occupation. I had an interview for my research in this building today, which houses the foremost Latvian academics and scientists. The epitome of Soviet Architecture, you can still see hammer and sickles on it, has seventeen floors and an excellent observation deck but only one elevator (I was told later that they had two but maybe the other one was not working). Does anyone else find that ironic that this is supposed to represent Stalin and the power of the USSR but yet they only thought to have two elevators? Granted the building was built in the 50's but still it just goes to show you the lack of planning and thought that actually went into these gifts.

I thought after my interview I would go up and see if the door was open to the observation deck. I got some lovely pictures from the top and superseded the ticket counter by looking like I belonged there (which I guess I actually did) and acting like I knew where I was going.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dziesmu Svētki

Although my fellowship was only for 10 months I decided to stay an extra month for the biggest event of the year, The Latvian Song and Dance Festival. I call it the Olympics of Latvian folk dancing and singing because it happens every five years and it brings the best Latvian singers and dancers from all over Latvia and the world to participate. Although there really isn't a first prize it is still amazing to see just how many participants there are. According to the Song Festival website over 35 000 participants gathered in Riga for the XXIV Song and XIV Dance Celebration in 2008. The tradition goes back for 135 years and in 2003 it was recorded in the UNESCO list of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage.
I stood in line for more than four hours to get tickets to the closing concert for singing and dancing and it was worth every second. Also I was lucky enough to get my ticket situation fixed on my flight from Madrid so I made it just in time to see these concerts and the end of the week long festival. I went to the Closing Dance Concert on Friday night where over 13,000 dancers performed folk dances while forming ethnographic patterns. It was truly amazing and something that, as a retired Latvian folk dancer, was very cool to see. Then on Saturday night I went to the closing concert for the singing portion and final concert for the festival where there was both singing and dancing. There were over 12,000 singers, almost 1,000 dancers and even more people in the audience. After the encores and the end of the actual program the festival went into a sing along where people sang songs and danced until dawn! It was one of those moments in life that I will remember forever. Here are some of the pictures to show you just how huge it really was.

The market in one of the parks with the list of events.
Another market
The big wind orchestra pavilion in Dome Square
The Closing Dance Concert
The stadium seating where you could actually see the formations.

The closing ceremony for the entire song festival in Mežparks

Monika and I
Me and the stadium
The view from the top
Monika and I showing that songs are strength as the sign says.