The Differences Part 2: Time

The Differences Part 2: Time

Time/Laiks

After over a week in Latvia, I feel like I’m a bit of an expert on the whole thing. (Do I need to point out I’m kidding? Probably…)

From what I can tell, time moves differently here than in Nebraska. Maybe it’s because it’s summer, and I don’t have a job, but the rhythm of the natives seems to be playing in a different time key than I am used to. In my life, it was all about a 4/4… or maybe a 2/4. Everything was ordered, scheduled, and precise. I knew what time everything was happening from my morning alarm to my lunch to my evening television programs or activities. My calendar was covered in precise days and times. Here, not so much… more of a 5/9 time key.

Mornings are very short, and people don’t seem to really worry too much about getting a jump start on the day. Breakfast can take awhile, and it seems that most things don’t really start happening until about 10. Monta drove me into Riga to go to the bank, and she had an appointment for her van to have some work done. The appointment was at 10, but she dropped me off in Old Town at about 10:15, and I asked if she was worried about the time, and she just shrugged it off. In the main square, some tour groups were just getting ready to go, but most of the shops were just opening, and there wasn’t much activity.

When I am Sēlieši, I wake up, and by the time I check the clock, it is always almost noon. It doesn’t matter if I wake up at 7:30 or 9, the morning just goes.

On the other hand, the late afternoon and evening linger on for several days. I am writing this at 19:40, and I had a full afternoon, went shopping, made supper, read a book, but the clock hasn’t moved for a few hours now. The sun just lingers in the sky, and the light stays the same. Supper with the Grasmanis clan would sometimes go from 19:00 to after 22:00… when it was too dark or mosquito infested to continue our conversation outside.

And even then, when it is finally dark and the sun has mostly given up on the day, the night lasts forever. Maybe my internal clock is still adjusting to the time change, but nights seem to just linger.

The Bank Forever

One thing that definitely happen is that time gets sucked away from you. I went to Riga at 13:00 yesterday to do some banking and run some errands. I thought I could make the 15:45 bus back to Sēlieši… I was so very wrong. By the time I checked my watch (after spending at least an hour at the bank) it was 17:00. I didn’t catch the bus until 18:45. But then the evening stretched until 2019, and all was right with the world.

 

I know you think I am exaggerating, but spend a summer in Latvia, and I think you will agree. Time was different in the winter when I was here. It just feels different when you are on this part of the globe. Shadows are longer. There is truth in the sky.

Driving

Stop?

So it doesn’t make sense why drivers have to drive so fast!

I took a few photos of signage here that is a bit different than in the states. I think the red line is a stop sign, but most of the intersections are just yields, which makes awesome sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense is that you just do not know how fast to drive. The general speed limit on highways is 90 kmh. But when you come to a city, you slow down to 50, I think. Sometimes it is 70. And sometimes it is even slower, especially when there is a cop around. When Rita and I drove the bumpy A2 across the country, there were signs that would just say to lower the speed, but never another one saying you can go fast again. I need clarity in my life. Latvian highways are not clear.

Odds and Ends

Instead of tic tacs, we have mik maki.

My name is spelled “Džefrijs” instead of “Jeffrey.”

At most places, you don’t stand in line to wait for service, but instead you take a number. Numbers at the bank, the post office, and even the electronic store!

Take a number.

I can drink beer at the bus stop while waiting for my bus. I can carry a 2-liter jug of beer with me through stores. No one seems to care! But they will card you hard for a pack of cigarettes. Not that I smoke, but I have seen kids breeze through lines with five bottles of beer, but as soon as they ask for smokes, “Show me your I.D.!”

Beer and Bus Stops

This guy is working his ass off to get each and every chunk of granite in the right place. Construction may take longer, but I get the feeling this sidewalk will last for 500 years. No shortcuts. Quality. Permanence.  Big difference!

Quality

There are not many pickups or SUVs. I joked about one reason I was moving to Latvia: There are no SUVs! I have to admit that I do love it. This is one pickup that I saw… and the guy needs it because he has more junk in front of his house than a Home Depot!

Rare Latvian Pickup

Cannot Ignore the News

Confused

As I write this, I realize that I haven’t written a post in a few days, and it is mostly because I am distracted and overwhelmed by the news I read and watch unfolding in the United States. It really is that bad, isn’t it?

One big difference is that my hosts were in absolute disbelief when I showed them photos of Americans walking around with Nazi flags and saluting like the Third Reich. “Here that is not allowed,” Ansis said. “They would be arrested.”

The Latvians I know just cannot understand the division in the United States. It is a completely (and obviously) foreign concept. I find that refreshing but also bothersome. Why do I have to travel halfway around the world to find sanity? What can we do to make things right back home?

What must the world think of the United States right now? We cannot let ignorance win!

Finally

Just a bit about my life…

Monta and Nora

Ansis and Monta and their three wonderful daughters have gone on a vacation to Estonia. The end of summer is coming, and this is the last grasp for some joy before school starts, and the long descent toward winter begins. We must relish the time we have!

I still do not have a full-time job. I am editing for the folklore people, and I love doing that, but the teaching jobs are not emerging. I have one lead that sounded promising, but I haven’t heard back from them. I also have a lead on an airport English-speaking telephone job that might be fun. Think of all the people I would get to talk to! “Send them to Jeff, the American!” It might be nice to try a different line of work for a change. The shop at the end of the road is hiring, but I think my Latvian needs some work before I can make change for people.

Tomorrow, I am going to the LATE (Latvian Association of Teachers of English) annual conference. I am actually presenting a short session on Writing Marathons. I hope to meet some other English-speaking types there and maybe learn more about what it means to teach English here.

Then I’m off for another road trip (if I can rent a car) to the tallest “mountain” in Latvia, Gaiziņkalns. I have always wanted to go there, and maybe my dream will come true this weekend! I am totally prepared to be underwhelmed.

Love the Bike!

I rode my bike in Riga again the other day. Did I mention there are no hills? You can just glide across the whole city in about 15 minutes. It is just perfect. I am a bit surprised there are not more cyclists in Latvia!

Take care, and feel free to message me, like my posts, or communicate in any way. Seriously. I’m not begging, but I sort of am!

 

Photos

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Water and World

Side Note: I changed the name of my blog. It used to be “The World According to Jeff” which, despite Edgar’s accusation, was not taken from the book or movie “The World According to Garp.” It is now called “Where the Water Meets the World.” I was inspired by a recent bicycle trip to the dam on the Daugava River which stands just a few hundred meters from my window. I just loved the way the dam divided the world, water on one side, land on the other. My world has always been connected to water… but that’s another story for another day. Peace!

 

 

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