Vitauts in Latvia 17: Friday (piektdiena)
I sort of woke up on Friday morning, but I was in a lot of pain. I promised myself that I would never drink enough to get sick again, but hey, it was Latvia. It was a bar crawl. There was absinthe. I had a slims gulva (sick head), and just lay on the couch as I watched the rest of them wake up, have coffee and conversation.
Finally, at about noon, Glen asked me if I was getting up. I said that I had planned to go get my passport at 1 p.m. He and Sue left with dad. They went to the park to renew their wedding vows after 22 years. What a wonderful gesture, I thought. Sue even brought the original wedding bulletin and they had matching Latvian rings to use as second wedding bands. I felt a bit guilty for not attending as a witness and photographer, but I needed to lie there for a bit longer.
I finally got up and had some coffee, which was a mistake. I won’t go into details, but absinthe is not better the second time around.
After getting cleaned up and resting a bit more, I finally walked to the passport office, and this time I did not forget my papers. I was also able to navigate the numers system myself without any help. However, the line was much, much longer. Apparently, Latvians like to do their business on Friday. I patiently waited at the office enjoying observing the people and doing some writing. One woman had a shirt that said “Husker” on it in a cool, artful script. I think it was a Husker Dü shirt, but I couldn’t be sure, and I was afraid to ask.
After over an hour, my number, 318, came up, and I went to get my passport. I asked for it in Latvian after practicing, “Es gribetu pase, ludzu.” There were no problems. I signed a paper, and the man handed me my maroon colored passport with my black and white photograph all ready to go. Glen thinks I look a bit like a serial killer, but it’s decidedly much more appealing than the terrorist photo on my American passport.
I am not sure what having a Latvian passport will do for me. I understand that because Latvia is a member of the European Union, I can freely travel, work and live in any of the EU countries as a citizen. That’s pretty cool, and it opens up lots of opportunities. I have always wanted to get out and live somewhere else, so maybe this is the push I need. Ansis, Gita and Bruno are all helping me look for work in Latvia. I think I’ll stay in Omaha for one more year, and then we’ll see what happens from there.
Sue and Glen met me at the apartment with dad who made his final trip up those awful stairs. This time, he was breathless and checking his heart rate in his room when I checked on him. Sue said he had a really nice day in the park doing the service and eating lunch, but he was clearly tired out. I think it was good that we only spent a week in Latvia.
After we got dad settled in, we walked to Old Town for our final shopping experience. It was awesome. Sue had a checklist of people she needed to buy things for, and we were militaristic in our conquering of the souvenir shops. I found a wonderful bakery and bought some items for us and some gifts for Bruno and Maruta for their hospitality.
We walked home and met Bruno for the final leg of our journey. We wanted to see the land that Liesma grew up on, and the land that my Uncle’s family sold several years ago. When I came in 2005, the original house was still standing. It was in sad shape, but it was there. Now it’s completely gone. Vitauts said he had seen the place and he wasn’t interested in going again, and I didn’t blame him, but I thought Sue and Glen should see it, so we went. Bruno was very accommodating.
The land was, as promised, completely barren and undeveloped. A fence had been erected in front of it, and it was surrounded by big, beautiful new homes. So whoever brought the property apparently made the mistake of overpaying in 2008 just before the bubble burst. We saw several unfinished buildings and empty properties. Bruno and Ansis said that people just got a little ahead of themselves in building during the boom of the mid 2000s. Now the economy was catching up, so hopefully, eventually, there will be something built on the property. It’s kind of sad to see that empty lot.
As we were driving back, Bruno drove over a speed bump and asked me if we had these in the United States, and I said, “Of course.” “What do you call them?” “Speed bumps,” I replied. “In Latvia,” he said, “they are ‘sleeping policemen.” We all had a good laugh at that.
The last mistake I made was buying smoked mackerel from Remi on our way home. I thought that my final Latvian meal would be a nice smoked fish that I couldn’t get in the United States, but instead it was this mostly raw, greasy, oily tasting thing that had a texture like an old sponge, and the flavor was even worse. I spit out the bite I took and looked for anything else to eat to erase the taste, but the mackerel got the best of me. Sue bought some candy that looked like teeth and eggs. It was… edible.
Bruno called a taxi company and set up our departure for 4:30 a.m. so we could get to the airport an hour and a half before our 6:30 a.m. flight to Frankfurt.
When we got home, dad was playing solitaire as he is prone to do. He was ready to pack up and head on back home. I think he’s the only one who got a good night’s sleep.
Note: If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I didn’t really sleep at all. I’m writing this on the plane right now.
Photos From Friday: