Pandemic Ending in Latvia

Pandemic Ending in Latvia

8 June 2020

The End of the Pandemic (we hope!)

The last 3 months have been surreal. I have been recovering from back surgery, the world was thrown into a global pandemic, my father passed away, I started a new career, and now we have protests and riots in the United States. The good news is that on 9 June, Latvia will officially lift the emergency health orders, and life will go back to normal for most people. There will still be some restrictions on gatherings, but these will be much less restrictive.

Changes

Travel has already started to open up. We visited Estonia (my first time) last weekend. We spent a couple of days in the lovely university city of Tartu. It felt really good to get in a car and drive to another country. The border was open, and no one seemed too concerned about Covid.

The rule for coming to Latvia is that if fewer than 15 of 100,000 residents of a country test positive for the virus, then they are allowed to come without restrictions. Hopefully the tourist industry will come back to life. We rode our bikes through Old Town Saturday night, and it felt very empty for a lovely June evening. Please, consider visiting Latvia! It is absolutely lovely in June (and most other months)!

Estonian Photos

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I feel very blessed to have a new job that has allowed me to work from home and to try a completely different path in life. I work as a product reviewer for a start-up company. We are just getting our feet wet right now, but I spend my days researching, reviewing, and writing. I have a terrific team and I feel at home in my new position. The work really demonstrates this notion that to really learn you have to start from ignorance. I admit I know nothing, and it is fascinating to see how much I can knowledge I can acquire in a short time.

No Longer Teaching

The strangest part of this new job for me is that I am no longer a teacher. I did do a little video for Latvian schools… an English lesson for 5th graders. I still have a few private students who may start learning again after this quarantine ends. But I am not in the system. Summer no longer means the same thing it used to, and I completely missed this nightmare of online teaching that so many of my colleagues were suffering through over these past few months. I still feel solidarity with my educational comrades, and I laughed at many of the memes and videos sharing the joys and pains of zoom classrooms and all the other things that go with online classrooms. The other day I was at a protest to save a local park, and after it was over, two young people asked me, “What do you do?” And it used to be so easy to just answer, “I’m a teacher.” But now my job requires some explanation, and it is not nearly as universal.

As many of you who follow me on social media know, we have a dog. A dog really changes your life. You can have a cat, and basically everything is just the same. But a dog is a much bigger investment. There is training, walking, feeding… the animal becomes a part of every conversation. When traveling, we have to take the dog into consideration. I will say that Hanna is an enjoyable creature, full of life and love, but she is a lot of work. She has been keeping Jacques Balsam, the cat, in shape.

June brings with it reminders of how life has changed. I was supposed to go to Tarfu, Finland this weekend for a NOFX concert that has been postponed. My sister was going to visit Latvia this month, but that is no longer going to happen. We are still planning to have a proper funeral service for Vitauts, but we are not sure when. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the air between is still a bit foggy.

Learning New Stuff

I have spent some of this time learning to bake bread, as I guess everyone else has done (yeast being so hard to find). I also took an online guitar class, but my skills are definitely basic at best. I am proud of myself for getting callouses on my fingertips and learning some new chords and scales, but my fat hands just do not have the supple flexibility to play guitar with any serious expertise. People with skill who can play guitar and other instruments have my eternal respect.

I also read a few books, visited the beach and did some recovering via cycling, walking and such. My back is much better, than you for asking. It is so nice to be able to fall asleep with constant leg and back pain. There is still soreness, and I am still not as fit as I would like to be, but I think things are getting better all the time.

In Latvia, we are moving forward, and hopefully, this setback will not be a long-term setback for our small nation. When I walk around our neighborhood, and I see so many young people out enjoying life, it gives me great hope for the future. Businesses have suffered, but there seems to be a spirit of rebirth and renewal as the sun reaches its annual zenith. People will be ready for Līgo, and as we pass the halfway point for 2020, they will be ready to move on from what has transpired.

Side Note:

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention George Floyd and the protests and riots going on in the United States right now. I feel so safely removed from all of the noise, and this place of privilege only reminds me of how privileged I am and have been my whole life. I have had lots of arguments about race and racism with people I respect, but it is hard to continue to respect people who simply seem blind to the ugly truth about America. One thing that really sinks in for me, as an expat, a new person in a new country, is how welcome I am in Latvia. And how the United States was supposed to be the melting pot. My parents came from another country and they seemlessly integrated into the New World which welcomed them.

But so many black people did not have the same welcome. The iconic quotation from Malcom X comes to mind about Plymouth Rock landing on them… this idea that a group of people has lived in America for 400 years, but they have never been welcomed or given a fair shake… it is sickening to me. And there are many who make this political and they want to blame Trump and blame the police and point fingers. But growing up in small-town Nebraska, I saw the ugliness of racism everywhere. I heard lots of terrible language and saw examples of people who I thought I knew turn ugly when the subject of race came up. It never made sense to me.

I wish I could do more. Like so many people I know, feeling helpless right now, and just hoping for change. I salute all of you who are fighting and doing what you can to make your voices heard. Change is a long time coming.

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Peace!

 

 

 

 

 

One Reply to “Pandemic Ending in Latvia”

  1. Thank you. I don’t always, or even usually, get around to reading your posts, but I did this one. So much of it resonated with me.

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