Saturday morning came quickly. It was hard to get dad up, and he was a bit disoriented, but Bruno woke us all up at 4 a.m. and made sure we got to the taxi.
He said he called for a van the night before, but the guy showed up in a station wagon. We were able to fit all of our luggage and four bodies, but it was very tight. Again, Sue and I laughed all the way to the airport, and Vitauts kept pointing out signs in Latvian.
Vitauts and I had our Black Balsam taken away as we tried to get through Security. Both Glen and dad got the pat down. Dad never empties his pockets like he is supposed to, and I don’t know what Glen’s problem is. Maybe he looks just a little too clean cut to be believable? I should have put the bottles of Balsam in the checked baggage, but I was worried about the weight. I watched as the nice, polite man dropped the perfect bottles into the disposal bin for liquids. What a waste, I thought. At least they could have had a drink after work!
I bought a 4 Euro cup of coffee and enjoyed my final Latvian torte as I read about the Turkish queue and disaster in France. The world seemed so remote and far away, but now we were going to join it again.
I could stay in Latvia just for that feeling of isolation. In the United States, every event that happens seems so personal and directed toward us, even if it isn’t. We are at the heart of the world circulatory system. If China wants to claim an island, we are somehow involved. But in Latvia, all those stories seem remote. Their headlines read like the headlines of a small-town newspaper struggling for “real” news. At first, I thought that was quaint, but now I realize that it’s just sane. Part of America’s problem is probably that we are constantly living in a state of fear and paranoia. I didn’t feel that at all in Latvia, except for whether or not the waiters hated us because we were loud and obnoxious. It felt good to shed that self-absorbed skin for a week. We’ll see what happens when I get back.
So we’re on our way home, and I think dad will be happy to be home with his comfortable chair, working television, and daily paper. This adventure was wonderful, but it has also been exhausting.
Some final reflections about our trip…
When we arrived in American, one of the first things we saw at the airport was a pile of french fries littering the floor. I can’t imagine that happening in Riga or Frankfurt.
Sue pointed out how she saw almost no yoga pants in Latvia. It may sound old-fashioned, and even a bit sexist, but it was so nice to see how women dressed in Latvia. Now I know why dad always wears pants and a button-up shirt. It’s just how they dress over there.
Europeans are in better shape than Americans, but we knew that one already, didn’t we. I will miss the fresh fruit and the low prices of produce.
Public wifi is more accessible there than it is here. At the Chicago airport, I’m paying $6.95 for internet access. At the Riga airport and all over Riga, it was free.
Our roads are better, and everything is a bit more organized and developed. I can’t decide if I like the grid system of Omaha better or the curving winding system of a city like Riga or our own New Orleans. It’s certainly more practical to have a grid, but I really like roundabouts and winding streets.
We kill our poor trees for no reason. In Latvia, there is a law that you can’t cut down trees even on your own property without a proper permit. Here, we rip up entire forests to widen a road or build a few cheap houses. Glen liked to point out how everything feels temporary in the United States, while in Latvia, it felt like everything was build for the long run with the future in mind. I like that.
You had to pay for bags at the supermarket. Imagine if we implemented that system here! How many fewer wasteful plastic bags would we use if they cost us money each time?
There are a lot of things that aren’t great about living in Latvia, but I like to focus on the positive while the memories are still warm and fuzzy. Feel free to comment and argue if you’d like! I would love to read counterpoints.
Final Day Gallery: