Saturday, December 30, 2006

Arrival in Riga

We made it to Riga! Our friends Apolonija and Gita were just outside the baggage area waiting for us with flowers and open arms! It was so good to see them again. We sat down and had tea at the airport and talked about plans real quick before we were taken to our hotel. We are staying in a bed & breakfast called the MultiLux and it is a very simple hotel. It is clean and nice even though our room is small. But, that is standard for Europe. We had a good flight except for one thing – my big bag didn’t make it. I’m writing this a day later and we still don’t have it. Hopefully it will be delivered soon. If Czech Airlines prides themselves on their great service, we should see it tonight. Steve and I stopped at the grocery store last night and picked up some shampoo so I could at least wash my hair. (We also had a light supper with soup, pasta, & tea.) Everything is in my big bag, including my “dryer” for my CI, my medicine that I take daily, makeup, curlers, clothes, etc. Luckily I packed a few extra things in my backpack and small bag. I had a pair of underwear and a white turtleneck in my back pack so I had clean clothes for today. There was only one problem with the white turtleneck. . it doesn’t look real good with a black bra on underneath! But, I wore my black sweater over it all day and was fine.

Steve and I slept in this morning. Well, I did anyway. Steve woke up at 3 a.m. because he heard people coming in after partying all night and they made a racket. Since I don’t hear a thing when I sleep, I slept through it all. Poor Steve. He probably wishes he could take off his ears once in a while! We had a nice breakfast in the hotel and had eggs, brown and black bread with cheese, salami, & ham. We also had cucumbers, tomatoes, and a coleslaw type salad with a very light vinaigrette. That is a standard breakfast for Latvia, except the eggs, which is American. We also had yogurt (which is very good), cereal and milk, tea & coffee. After breakfast we took a walk into Old Riga and went to the mall to exchange our money to Lats and buy a cell phone. Then we went to an Internet cafĂ© to check our emails and do some website work, including this blog. Then, the highlight of our day was lunch at Apolonija’s house. We took the bus to the church near her apartment and she met us there. Oh my! She fed us well and kept bringing us food & drink! The Latvians are very good hosts and take care of their guests! She started us out with Sojanka soup (I can’t spell it but will find the correct spelling), which is absolutely the best soup here. I was craving it last night and was disappointed when it was sold out. It is a special vegetable soup with different meats in it and a dollop of something like sour cream (only better). I savored every bite! I thought we were just going to her house for soup but she brought out a plate with a chicken cutlet, shredded beets, potatoes, and quartered tomatoes. Then, she brought out a tin of cookies (gingerbread, sugar, and jam cookies) and some kind of apple cinnamon pastry or cake. MMMmmmm! Then, she served hot wine (another favorite) and hot tea.

The highlight of our lunch was meeting Ilmars, her husband. He is such a wonderful sweet man and talked with us for hours about music and jazz. He also suffers from a hearing loss and had lots of questions for me. I had never met him before and discovered that he doesn’t go out much except for ½ hour a day to go to the market. He has several health problems and prefers to stay inside. Apolonija and Ilmars live in a small two room flat and share it with their grown son, Ivo. What amazed me about the flat was that almost every wall was lined with books or music – a HUGE library! Steve and I sat on the couch while Apolonija and Ilmars sat on small chairs or stools. I asked Apolonija if she wanted to sit next to me but she said the stool was better for her back. She is our lawyer who has been setting things up and lining up interviews so we had some business to discuss after lunch. She is very organized and thorough and had everything ready for us. She even made some phone calls for us to line up some interviews for next week. Steve said that she went back and forth between speaking in Latvian and Russian while she was on the phone. She struggles with her English so Ilmars translated for her and us. She understands and writes it well but isn’t comfortable speaking it. But, we don’t always need to speak when we are together. A smile and a hug are just fine. J When we got done with business, Apolonija brought more food! She served us some dark bread with jelled meat (looked like chicken & chicken broth formed together), horseradish, and soured pickles. I wasn’t sure how to eat it so I asked Ilmar to show me. He cut a section out of the gelled meat like one would cut a pie and put a slice on my plate. He also scooped up some horseradish and put it on the plate as well. Then he took the dark bread, took some meat, dipped it in the horseradish, and then put it on the bread. It was different but good. We had more tea and talked some more. By the time we left, we had been there almost six hours! Apolonija walked us to the bus stop and stayed with us until our bus came. She is such a sweetheart and we love her.

After we got off the bus, we walked back to Old Riga and went to Leduspukes, which serves the best ice cream. I had granola ice cream which just melts in your mouth. (Jack, I got a scoop for you and a scoop for me but you weren’t here to eat your scoop so I ate it for you!) Steve also had a scoop of granola ice cream as well and a scoop of chocolate. Then we walked several blocks back to our hotel, which took about 10-15 minutes. This is a holiday weekend so we keep hearing people setting off fireworks. Makes me jump!

Speaking of sounds, I’ve heard some new sounds since we got here. There are trolleys, which run on electricity, that travel in the street and I can hear the electric lines clicking as they go by. I can also hear the “arcing” of the electricity on the lines. Another time we were sitting in a car on a bridge and every time a car passed us I could hear a clickety clack type sound next to us. Steve said it was the expansion joint on the bridge making a noise every time a car drove over it. There are pigeons in the streets and I can hear them clucking and also when they flap their wings to fly away.

Steve just called the airport when we got back to the hotel and my bag was there. They said they would bring it to the hotel right away after Steve told them it had my medicine in it. I’m glad. I’ll be able to dress for church in the morning instead of wearing jeans or corduroy pants. I forgot to mention that I have a nice fur coat to wear. Gita was afraid that I would be cold coming here from warm Tennessee so she brought me her mother-in-law’s coat for me to wear. It is gorgeous! I’ll wear it tomorrow for New Year’s Eve.

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