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Living La Riga Loca!

Riga has been an unbelievable surprise for us after a long, hard year in India. Wow. It is an amazing place.

However, let me start with our last night in India and I'll work my way up to the present. I also use the blog as a bit of a journal, so best to not jump too far ahead. Just today had the most excellent time at the best childrens' outdoor playground that we've ever seen and realized if I don't start blogging about it, I'm going to skip writing about all the great discoveries we're having when I'm still fresh in thought about them. The only bummer right now is the cord to our camera got packed in the container--which won't be here for a few weeks---so I can't add pictures. The Olympus card for the camera is too big for the laptop too so that's out too. Bear with me though, because I've taken a lot and will be well worth coming back to see! IT IS SO AWESOME in Latvia. I started a new posting for A Life in Transit last week before we had internet so the next part is from probably last Wednesday or Thursday. It's a bit wordy, but guess that's just how I am! Here goes:

Hello from Riga! We arrived late Monday evening after what we consider to be one of our best trips home to Denmark. It was exactly what my husband and I needed to get a break in-between lives, so-to-speak. I'm sitting in an apartment with my kids watching cartoons in Italian. Why Italian you may wonder? Because even though there are, I kid you not, about 150 channels, there is only one I can find with cartoons on and even worse, the only English language channels are BBC World, CNN International (which I loathe it but watch anyway), Bloomberg Int'l, and CNBC. My husband was annoyed when we figured out our limited viewing choices because even though there are multiple sports channels from Germany and other eastern European countries, none bothered to broadcast the big Manchester United/Chelsea semi-final Champions League game. The bizarre satellite tv has to be pointed eastward because we get shows from Russia, Hungary, Romania, Italy (except we do get Germany and Poland) but weird enough, we get north Africa in Libya and pretty much all the Middle East channels from Al Jazeera to Omani TV , to Iraqi and even Palestine. We are only staying here for a few weeks until about the end of the month until our things arrive and we move into our house (looks like we'll get a house instead of apartment here. Hurray!) so it's just a minor inconvenience since I have a bunch of books to read-----ALTHOUGH one major thing must be rectified. Our portable dvd player won't load/read the freaking discs (Phillips gives "no disc" error), so I'm hurting for giving the kids something to watch. Anyway, I'll write more later on Riga. For now, consider this a wrap up posting/journal of India and time spent in Denmark as I wait for the internet guys to show up. Sat home all day today and they never showed. *grumble grumble* As I sit here, I have no cell phone nor internet so am effectively cut off from the world.

ANYWAY, to recap, our last day in Mumbai was April 25th. It was a hard day because it was going to be the last times we would see most of the people we met during our time in Mumbai. The day started when I took my 5yr old up to school and then went back to the service hotel (the same one we stayed in when we arrived to Mumbai---it's amazing how different the experience was this time). We had been staying in the Grand Residency (Hyatt) for the past 10 days. I have to write them up in TripAdvisor because it is just such a relaxing place to be in the heart of Bandra for a resonable price. My housekeeper, Nancy, came to the hotel to eat breakfast with me (boy did she get looks for being in the restaurant, but I said that anything she orders goes on our bill). Even though she wasn't cleaning, of course, it would be the last day for her to be with us and she wanted to see the kids on the last day. How sweet of her--she could've just used the day off. Also, my husband had her letter of recommendation too so that was important she get before we left. It turned out she'd be with me all day and into the evening which was actually really great. We'll miss Nancy (her real name is Narcy, but I completely mis-read her name when originally interviewing her and she never corrected me, plus called herself Nancy). I only found out about 3 months into her working for us! Nancy was such a great help to me and when we were told that my husband's job would be disappearing from the new restructure, there is always stress about getting our employees new jobs before we go. It may sound a bit funny to talk about having hired help, but there is a big misconception about whether or not they're needed or if we are somehow living the "big life". Let me explain:

In India, or even Panama where we lived before, and other places, having household staff is the norm. Just like Panama, you would see wealthy and middle class families employing housekeepers, child minders, gardeners, cooks and (for India especially) drivers. We had both a housekeeper (Narcy) and driver (Prashant) in India, and only a housekeeper (Sixta) in Panama. While we may run in the ex-pat crowd and have access to wealthy international people living on their company's dime, the local wealthy are super rich and in a league of their own. Most times, my expat girlfriends and I discovered, the local elites are on their own planet of entitlement. You'd really have to compare them to perhaps the Beverly Hills or Manhattan crowd--that type of rich. It's sometimes hard watching so many of them treat their staff terribly and work them from dawn to dusk and, in India, expats paid twice what locals paid staff. Nancy, for example, got Rs8000 from us, or just under $200/month--a very good salary if you can believe it. Locals pay their housekeepers only Rs4000/mo or just under $100! I was worried with all the economic downturn and the expats be recalled home, that Nancy would have a hard time finding a job. However, all that worry was for nothing. What we were finding out that with so many expats and so few good housekeepers, people took whoever they could find--not always a good match. Now that expats have a lot more choice, when I got Nancy's details up on the Mumbai Connections (int'l expat group/newsletter) site, I was contacted within hours and Nancy interviewed the next day, got the job and got Rs1000 raise. Her resume included working for mulitple Thai consul generals, AlItalia VPs and others within my husband's company. She speaks English, Mangalorian, Hindi, Marati and Italian. Amazing. She was the oldest of 8 kids and when her mother died young, had to leave school to raise them and ended up "only" a housekeeper. She was well aware of her station in life and while she's had a decent life/money and even lived in Italy with one family for 8 months, it is frustrating the hand that life can deal someone. Prashant, our driver, also managed to get hired so we got to leave India relieved that both found employment.

So, back to our last day. Nancy hung out watching my almost 3 yr old while I packed everything up. At 12:30, we left for the school and I had to stop and pick up a cake for the class for my 5yr old's goodbye party. It was a picture of a Seahorse (he was in the K-1 Seahorses class at Ecole Mondiale) and what a funny group of kids they are. Indian kids are interesting. At birthday parties, you see nannies literally spoon feeding these kids at 5, 6, 7 yrs old, like little baby birds. The kids run up, the nanny puts something in their open mouth, wipes with the napkin, and the kids run off. That bizarre behavior makes for some interesting personalities. Shivan, one of the kids, just cracked me up.

The party went off well (it was also the last day for one of the teachers who was leaving to get married) and only N's best friend was sad. J is from England and it was just heartbreaking to see him cry and say he didn't want N to leave. The great thing is we'll be going to England in July to visit J and his mom Kate, my best friend in Mumbai and now one of the best friends I ever had, to see what England is all about. Can't wait!

After the party, we took the kids back home and Kate offerred to take N while I finished up at the hotel and then we had all planned on being at their place for one last dinner and then head off for the airport. My husband was running late (as ususal) and finally got there just before 9pm. We had to watch American Idol and see the double elimination of Lil Rounds (she so deserved to be off. how many times could Simon tell her and her not understand that it's not a karaoke contest!) and Anoop. American Idol is all the rage with the expat group. There is so little television that you take what you can get! Actually, it was the first year that I ever followed AI from the beginning (last year caught the last few weeks before David Cook won) and it's been fun to see all the hype--and hear that this is one year where the talent is really high. GO ADAM!

The evening was full of goodbyes. When my husband arrived, it was time for Nancy to go and it was very hard. We were having Prashant driver her home, then be back at Kate's by 10pm for us to go to the airport. Nancy burst into tears and said how sad she was that we were leaving and said how well we treated her and apologized for anything she may have done wrong (huh? of course she didn't do anything wrong). It's been a few years since she's been around kids (most have been singles she's been cleaning for) and she and the kids got along great. The good thing is unlike Sixta, who speaks only Panamanian Spanish which I can barely understand, Nancy speaks full English so we can call her. She called my youngest son "Poopie" and I'll miss hearing that. I'm getting teary just thinking about our Nancy.

When Prashant got back an hour later from Mahim, it was time for the harder goodbye with Kate and the family. I've been dreading it, even though I know we'll make the effort to see each other (our husbands get along great too, but Kate and I have the serious friendship) and I wonder how I'll get on without talking to her every day. I, however, have the easier side of this in that I'm the one leaving. She will be staying (hopefully just one more year) and now has to re-do her life there without us ride-sharing to/from school and going to Waterstones (the club we belong to) and basically we were constantly talking or texting if not together. As the "trailing spouse" you make some hard and fast friendships and it's really diifficult to move/or have someone move away. I think I wrote before about the friendships I made out of Panama. There were 4 girls that I'll be very close to forever. One Kiwi, one American, and 2 Danes. All but the American will be in Denmark. It's hard to explain sometimes how the life is and how fast you dispense with the formalities of small talk and when you're "all alone" you quickly bond with people. Honestly, I don't know what I did in a past life to be so fortunate to have made 4 intimate relationships such as the 4 in Panama and the one in Mumbai but, for the fear of sounding dramatic, I honestly thank God for all of them.

EDIT: I also have to add being involved in Republicans Abroad has also created other friends and have to mention the Panama group. Sandra and Alice, you'll always be my political soulmates! Plus, Bernie in India who I didn't know very well, but her charity work blows my mind. Meeting such great people has always been the best part of the transient nature of our life.

We painfully left our friends and headed off to the airport. We said our goodbye's to Prashant our driver, and then headed in. The flight from Mumbai to Amsterdam would be 9 hrs, plus 3hr layover, then just over an hour to Copenhagen, wait for the train which stops conveniently on-site at the airport, then 1.5hrs to Odense, then a 20 minute final drive home. It may sound like a pain, but was a snap considering it was a 26hr door-to-door from Panama to Odense. After an irritating experience getting through Customs out of Mumbai (am so happy we're out of India), the flight was first an easy 6 hrs of us sleeping, but the last 3 consisted of my little T throwing up over and over again. Can you say hell? The one thing that got me through without getting a migraine was that we only were doing one long flight to our new home this time. No round trip back to India or to somewhere else far away. As we departed the plane in Amsterdam and the mostly black haired, dark skin passengers started becoming the minority (no racist pun intended!), and we started to see more and more Europeans, I realized we were finally free of the chaos that is India.

That's it for now. Will be back real soon with more updates. A lot has happened in the last 10 days that we've been here in Latvia including finding the house we'll live in, got the car (YAY! Audi A6 station wagon SWEET!) and have already made some friends.

Life is good. I will probably become one of Latvia's biggest tourism endorsers before our time is up here.......... :lol:

6 Comments On This Entry

There are times where you make me miss the hell out of the near constant moving that was my life for the first 45 years or so.
And yeah, I totally understand about the 'small talk' being dispensed with!
Hope you have no major problems with your relocate.

USNJIMRET, on May 16 2009, 09:44 PM, said:

There are times where you make me miss the hell out of the near constant moving that was my life for the first 45 years or so.
And yeah, I totally understand about the 'small talk' being dispensed with!
Hope you have no major problems with your relocate.

So far so good. I'm losing my cynicism that built up in India dealing with life there with 2 small kids. An Aussie friend taught me her way to cope was just to add "SFI" to the end of my sentences when complaining as in "..so f*$@ing India".

I'm nervous now that I won't make the same type of friends here, but have already found a group in the city that I'm hanging with. I "picked up" a mom in the park when my son came screaming over to me shouting "MOM! HE SPEAKS ENGLISH!!!!!!!" for the entire playground to hear. Hehe. What can ya do? Ya pimp the kids out to make friends. :lol:

Someday we'll get tired of moving the kids around---thought it'd be coming to an end after India the way the job prospects looked--but now, who knows. We're so going to love being here on full expat benefits with my hubby as the regional boss and only 1.5 hrs from Denmark!!!
If you don't keep copies of all your journal entries... :lol:

I want you to put them all together in a book someday. I want to spend my last days sitting in a rocking chair reading about your experiences around the world. I so enjoy reading your posts. Interesting info, and it's humorous to boot. Keep it coming. You should one day take all your Journal posts, add a few stories to connect them, and bingo. You got a book! You've already got a title (your blog title). I'll buy a copy or ten. I've told a couple of relatives of your blog. I don't know if they read it (live in Europe) though.

Like USNJimRet, I too miss the moving around though except for my short 4+ years in the service, all my moving has been confined within the borders of the US. Even so, going from the urban Los Angeles suburbs to small town Florida, or Texas many years prior, the culture shock took some getting used to. I remember those trips I took around S.E. Asia back in the service days, and seeing the vast differences between national cultures. Interesting, yet also sometimes a little frightening. Old time Adrenaline junkies thrive in that environment. I may be much older now, but I do miss that anxiety, apprehension, and the adrenaline rush all taking place at once feeling. To me, it makes me feel more alive....

I'll be looking forward to the stories of your encounters, experiences as you get settled into Latvia!
Well, I've never moved around and I love reading your "journal." As I have said before, I live vicariously through your blog. (But no, I promise I don't ever claim to have lived in Mumbai, Panama, or Denmark while using your writings as notes.)

Keep on writing. And I will keep on reading. (And if you ever write a children's book, keep me in mind to do the illustrations.)
Hmmm... "political soulmate"... I'm not so sure that my soul has such a subcategory. :lol:

Oh, and just borrow a cable for heaven's sake... "I can't upload pix because my connector is being shipped from overseas" is SO last century! ;)

Glad to have you back!
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