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RightNation.US: Loving Latvia and losing a kid - RightNation.US

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Is it possible for me to fall more in love with Riga and Latvia every day? I think so. It has been a fantastic few weeks in our new country and over the last week, have really started to feel like we belong here---even though I am probably wandering around with a gaping mouth astounded at all the wonderful things this little country has to offer.

First off, I do have to clarify some of the things I'm completely enamored by is simple stuff that we've just not experienced in Panama or in India i.e. public parks with working playground equipment that doesn't look like it'll fall apart or even clean and green parks covered in lush grass (real sod). India has so many people that all the "green spaces" are really just trampled down to nothing and red earth (the dirt color) is all that's left. It's not really appealing to take the kids to with the stray dogs and sleeping homeless poor all around the open benches either. Then there are smooth roads, bathroom facilities with toilet paper and sinks with soap dispensers (!)--you know, normal things you'd find in the States and other westernized countries. Also, now that we're out of the tropics, we can let the kids run barefoot in regular grass, not the tougher grasses of Panama and NEVER in India (dirty). There are possibly red ants, scorpions or spiders in the grass too.

My kids are still young and we left Denmark back in summer of '05 when my oldest was 20months old. Our early parenting experiences in the tropics haven't been close to what we ourselves grew up in MN or Denmark. In Latvia, we've now found a place where we can have "normal" for I hope at least the next 18 months. 2 summers here would be excellent.

Other daily things like grocery stores that have full stocks of multiple choices of items, CHEESE (oh how I love it) and MEAT are still a novelty. Lots and lots of meat. Panama was okay for meat and cheese selections, but was a bit pricey for the imported kinds, but that was over a year ago. The past 364 days spent in India were much different and the time seems twice that culinarily (not a word, I know) speaking. I ate chicken and mutton for a year. Hardly ate beef (restaurants) and can't remember eating pork when there other than at a friend's house in which it was imported and expensive. It's just not sold at many places. Neither Hindus or Muslims eat it and even my Nancy (our housekeeper) as Catholic never ate pork. Besides, it was hard enough eating the meat there knowing the sad conditions the animals live in before they're killed for my dinner much less eating an animal that hardly any of the population will touch. You can only imagine how those animals are kept. :lol: One guy in Goa on a travel site said he saw pigs eating the raw sewage from the outhouses and that put him off any local meat--but the imports are ridiculously priced (they know it's the foreigners who'll eat and pay) and refrigeration is a joke. They kept their wines outside in the heat for crying out loud and I didn't see too many refrigerated trucks at all....

But I digress back to my former residence! Let me come back to my happy place that is Latvia.

I'm almost jubilantly dancing down the footpaths with my kids discovering all these great places. Now on the Latvian front, there are lots of things that as a tourist and new resident, I can really be excited about. They have a cool restaurant called LIDO which is a chain that offers Latvian food (roast pork, potatoes, fried onions----good comfort food) and great beer PLUS has wonderful facilities for the kids to play in. We'll be heading over to the BIG LIDO that I linked above soon. We've only been to the one out at the Spice (pronounced "SPEE-SAY") mall last weekend which will be about an 8 minute drive from our new house.

Speaking of Spice (here comes the lost kid part) we did have a scary moment last weekend in that our 5 yr old got lost in the mall. We're talking the "real" lost as in he-had-to-ask-strangers-to-help-him-find-his-parents kind of lost. We were all heading into Elkor and my husband said we needed to get cash. Just outside Elkor, there was an ATM so we all stopped while I tried to get money. It didn't accept non-bank customer cards so we continued towards the entrance to the store. Just as we were about to step in, I spotted another ATM to my right, and went over to try my luck getting cash there. Yes, it worked, and at the same time I was getting cash, my husband and the kids were passing a display with bikes and mini cars for kids to sit and drive. Our "N" stopped and asked his father if he could see the cars and the hubby said "yeah" thinking I was right behind him, but I wasn't, and continued with the baby back to the electronics leaving "N" alone (but not realizing it) at the front of the store to the left. Well, it took just a minute for me to get cash and since I figured they were all together, wandered over to the toys to the RIGHT quickly to see if they had any of the Hot Wheel sized CARS (yay! finally found the sheriff) and we somehow ended up missing each other.

After about 5-8 minutes, I went to find my hubby and "T" still in electronics and after a minute, realizing we're down 1 kid, asked: "Where's "N"?" The hubby said "I thought he was with you?" Well, that started the frantic 15 minute search that almost caused me to get gray hair. "N" wasn't in the (big, but only 1 story) Elkor, so then we started into the huge mall. I was crapping my pants with worry thinking of Eastern Europe's human trafficking problems and "N" obviously doesn't speak Latvian or Russian to get help. Basically, I had every horrible child snatching scenario playing out in my head to include Maddie McCann all the way to Jacob Wetterling. Of course this entire time "T" is crying hysterically in the stroller since I put the "sheriff" down back in Elkor to not have to stand and waste time paying for it. Like that didn't add to the stress or anything. Geeezzzuuuuzz.....

ANYWAY, I'm heading down the main walkway in the mall wondering "Did he go back to JYSK?" where we were before (another huge dept store) and then this woman with this odd look on her face walks right up to me and says "YOU! COME" and waves her arms. She doesn't speak English and we walk for about 100 feet and there I can see my "N" standing ashen-faced with a couple in their mid50s and then he starts to cry when he sees me. What happened was "N" had waited for me at the cars and when I didn't show, left to store to see where I was. He then just continued walking until he saw the Toyota Prado (Land Cruiser) where we had passed earlier (and had I said to him: "Do you remember this was Julie's car?" She was a friend of mine in Panama who let us borrow their Prado when out of town). He then decided to stop at the Prado asked a couple also looking at it for help finding his mom. THANK GOD the man spoke English (of that age too, usually it's only the young people who speak it) and "N" was able to tell him what I was wearing. I had on a bright canary yellow jacket (that you couldn't miss from the moon) and so another lady, who was also there helping, went off in the direction of Elkor (he remembered which way he'd come) to look for the woman with a bright yellow jacket.

My husband and I had split up to look for "N" and he was just coming up to us as the other people were leaving after being thanked by me. Let me just say I was L.I.V.I.D. with my husband. It was a total mis-communication between him and I with his thinking I was right behind him and me not having a clue I was supposed to be with "N", but I couldn't help my fury. It was not a very pleasant next hour or so. I just couldn't get all the awful things out of my head that could have happened. "N" was very far down in the mall and I was so afraid he'd go outside looking for my husband since my husband had been outside before having a smoke and we waited for him. Dear Lord, it was a frightening 15 minutes.

So, I can add the assistance by these strangers to my child as yet another wonderful thing in Latvia. You read on different sites that Latvians are hard to get to know, they don't look you in the face when speaking (after being under Soviet occupation can't say I blame them---I'd be afraid too of being too friendly to the wrong person) but our experience has been the opposite. People have been very friendly, they smile and only our banker teller woman (we always seem to get her) is the only cranky one we've come across. Not a bad average and I think Latvians are getting a bad rap.

That's it for now. There's so much to write and that we've experienced so much getting outside and exploring every day but an experience like losing your kid in the mall for the first time and in a foreign country end up being a parental "milestone" that I just had to blog about.

Just wait until I write about Jurmala. It's the best place we've seen so far. Who knew such a gorgeous place was such a favorite vacation destination for Brehznev and Khrushchev?

edit: just correcting some of the poor grammar I find after reading a few times
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11 Comments On This Entry

My husband lost our oldest boy at a car show in Seattle Kingdome. (We were visiting friends in Washington.) Even when people speak the same language, to lose a child in a HUGE unfamiliar area is too scary.

(Luckily I wasn't there. I only heard about it after he was home safe.)
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I've always heard great things about Latvia and have met a few folks from there too. We didn't get to visit it when on our Europe trip two years ago but we did make stops in Lithuania and Estonia. I highly recommend also visiting Latvia's close neighbors as the Baltics are amazing in their European way but also in the new sense as they rediscover their identities after being under the Soviet thumb for so long. Hubby's father is originally from Lithuania and escaped with his family when the Soviets invaded in WWII. To go there and see the beautiful country and what they are striving to do... heart-wrenching but makes you so proud of such a strong country. We were only on the coast in the lowlands on our visit (Klaipeda) but Vilnius is our next stop when we visit again, it is known for its amazing medieval architecture and old town. The same goes for Estonia, it has a certain quality to it that is just magical and historic - especially Tallinn. All three of the Baltic countries have come so far in the last twenty years, we cannot wait to go back!

BTW, if you want to see pictures, do let me know. :)

Also, quite a scary experience in your little guy going missing! But he sounds very smart in figuring out how to find you, especially in getting help from very kind people!
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Your experiences in India sound a little worse than mine so fare in South Korea. Finding sour cream here has been a major issue, and we have to have Sweet And Low shipped to us from the States. (I'm diabetic and Koreans put either or both sugar and hot pepper sauce in EVERYTHING.) I think when I get home, I'll be able to eat Jalapanoes, habeneros, and Cyan Peppers and laugh.

Public bathrooms here are an issue- literally. I don't think these people know about an elbow bend. Since they use the Asian style squate toilets in most places there's always a waste smell in them. We go to one little coffee shop that has excellent bathrooms.


Beef here is OUTRAGEOUS! I paid 30,000 Won for a Kilogram of ground beef. (Over $20) I won't do that again.

However, all that being said, Mrs. Cobalt Blue and I DO LOVE it over here. In three months we've only met 1 unpleasant Korean and we think he was drunk!

Danny
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cobalt-blue, on May 26 2009, 09:28 AM, said:

Your experiences in India sound a little worse than mine so fare in South Korea. Finding sour cream here has been a major issue, and we have to have Sweet And Low shipped to us from the States. (I'm diabetic and Koreans put either or both sugar and hot pepper sauce in EVERYTHING.) I think when I get home, I'll be able to eat Jalapanoes, habeneros, and Cyan Peppers and laugh.

Public bathrooms here are an issue- literally. I don't think these people know about an elbow bend. Since they use the Asian style squate toilets in most places there's always a waste smell in them. We go to one little coffee shop that has excellent bathrooms.
Beef here is OUTRAGEOUS! I paid 30,000 Won for a Kilogram of ground beef. (Over $20) I won't do that again.

However, all that being said, Mrs. Cobalt Blue and I DO LOVE it over here. In three months we've only met 1 unpleasant Korean and we think he was drunk!

Danny


Hey, Danny! Glad to hear you are loving Korea. Gotta be interesting now with the little dictator to the north detonating a nuke. Yikes. :o

I love Korean food and you're right, sugar is in a lot of it. Thickens up the stir fry! As for sour cream, good luck finding it. What you may find instead in the international markets is crème fraîche. It's a pretty decent substitute (if you don't already know). However, I don't suggest using it as a pie filling or anything major like that since it's not as thick as sour cream.

I'm surprised about the beef prices. I couldn't bear to pay the prices in India for crap cuts so just avoided it all together except "mince" (ground). Even then, I swear only if you make it with all the heavy Indian spices could you avoid this odd taste it had from time to time. Yuck.

Funny you mention sour cream because you can see what it's like looking for "items from home" that are major staples. it was one of the first things I looked for at the grocery store when we moved to Denmark back in '02. My mother-in-law bought crème fraîche and I just bought the thickest I could find at 38% fat instead. On our last trip to Denmark just a few weeks ago, I noticed that Bilka was now carrying sour cream! Progress! In Panama, I had sour cream because they import so much from the US and it's a short sea-voyage ex Miami so everything was pretty fresh. In India, forget it. It was impossible to find and everything western was stupid expensive. In Latvia, I've come to the CAPITAL of sour cream. It's everywhere and on everything! :)

I can only imagine the bathrooms. I can vividly remember some very modern but crazy ones sort oTHESE but never used them, In almost every public restroom they had at least one westernized toilet. Isn't it funny how now you'll probably remember certain places for their bathrooms? :)

Anyway, keep us posted on your Korean adventure!
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Renwaa,

Beef here is stupid expensive- except for bulgolgi. That is stupid cheap. I don't understand why, except the cuts in aren't that good but the meat itself is fantastic. I'm in Buan in the Southwest province and the area is known for a vegetarian dish called bimbimbap. It's a very good rice and vegetable mix with that hot pepper sauce again.

I'll try the creme fraiche. Mr. CB found a recipe for using it and butter milk to MAKE sour cream. But finding buttermilk is almost as bad.

On the other hand, there's some very good local wines raspberry and mulberry wines, an excellent dirt cheap rum, and even scotch is inexpensive. Of course all the locals drink soju which tastes like rubbing alcohol. There's a pretty good local beer. It tastes about like Bud light except that it's good.

The funniest thing I've come across is all the things the men here eat/drink for "male power", and everything is advertised as "For healthy or joyful living" even cigarettes. My Co-teacher wanted me to drink pem soju (soju with a pickled snake in it ala the worm in tequilla) for male power, and drink fresh deer blood, and of course to have dog. So far I've drunk the snake soju. *grin* Mrs. CB asked him what the women drank for "female power". He gave her confused look and said, "nothing." I don't know if he meant that women were powerful enough, or if he was afraid of women with power.
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