Latvia, North, East or North East Europe?

In my last blog I seemed to have offended some people by claiming Latvia was in East Europe. No offence intended. I would be grateful for other Latvian opinions on where Latvia is situated. Please give me your logical reasoning, not just that the UN says it is northern Europe. If that were the case then Scotland would be in northern Europe, which I don’t think it is. Riga is just below the 57th parallel and Glasgow just below the 56th parallel. Only 121 km apart. Let the discussion begin.

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Ranting Time

Does the Latvian economy want overseas investment or not. I want to buy a house, the seller wants to sell her house. But the level of bureaucracy, inefficiency and incompetence in the system is astounding. Let me give you a list of what we had to do this week. Pleae bare in mind that I was also meant to be at school this week sorting computers out:-

  • Monday – Rest day – well it was meant to be. I had to go to the CSDD (DVLA IN THE UK) to get my new car I had delivered from Germany registered and have a technical inspection. This all went well and only took just over 2 hours.
  • Tuesday – Visited SWEDBank in Riga to open a Darījuma Kontu. This is is a special bank account which is opened to hold the money for the payment of the house we are buying. Once our names are on the land register then the bank takes it’s part to pay off any outstanding mortgages/loans and transfers the balance to the seller of the house. We then visited our bank SEB and tried to transfer the money for the house to the Darījuma Kontu.Unfortunately the bank don’t trust you to spend your money wisely and you have to be able to prove what you are spending your money on. Despite having the documents regarding the Darījuma Kontu. with us, these weren’t deemed sufficient: we needed the contract regarding the sale of the house. Needless to say we didn’t have these. However the gentleman in SWEDBank was very helpful and told us that if we could get the contracts then we could go to SEB bank in the ALPHA shopping centre on the outskirts of Riga which was open until 9.00 pm. So after a few phone calls and armed with the necessary contracts we arrived at SEB only to be told that because they were only a small branch they couldn’t handle a transaction so large. My blood was starting to boil.
  • Wednesday – Armed with the contracts we went to our branch of SEB, all the staff there now know us very well. We were attended to by a very nice lady who speaks excellent English, as she had lived in Ireland for 7 years.. She joked that because of the extremely large number of contracts, and there were a lot, this seemed like the sale of the century. Transfer of funds successfully made we had to wait until we had notification that they had arrived at  SWEDBank before heading to Riga to meet a notaire (lawyer) who, for a fee, would check that all the contracts were legally ok before we headed off to the Land Registry. Arriving at the notaries we were told because she was busy she could only validate the Darījuma Kontu. We now urgently had to find another notaire who could validate the house sale contracts. Fortunately the seller of the house found somebody who could see us 2.00 pm the following day. By this time I am unhappy to say the least.
  • Thursday – Armed with a wallet full of money we arrived at the notaire’s office hopeful that we could finish quickly enough and get to Limbazu (75 km away) before they closed at 5.00pm. Job done, we got to the car just before the heaviest thunderstorm for a long time and Riga ground to a halt. So did we.
  • Friday – Alarm at 6.00 am, in the car by 7.00 am arriving at Limbazi at 8.40 am. First in the queue and finished by 9.30 am. SUCCESS !!! We move on 30th June.

I have tried to rationalise this apparent lack of trust Latvians display to towards strangers, and let me stress that it only applies to strangers. Nobody smiles at strangers in the street, not even eye contact is made if it can be avoided and the big banks obviously don’t trust each other. I have come to the conclusion that this is a legacy from the soviet occupation when nobody knew whom to trust in case they were or were being paid by the KGB to spy on people. As behavioural habits are learnt from parents, even young people behave this way. I think there is a wonderful opportunity for some enterprising young Latvian to start a campaign to change the Latvian persona. We could call it “Keep  calm and smile at a stranger”. I would do it myself but I don’t think some Brit telling Latvians how to behave would go down to well

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Celebration Time – Come On

Party season really started in earnest this week; pre Jani party on Tuesday and dancing in the street with excellent live bands at a packed Kalnciema Kvartāls on Thursday and a school graduation celebration on Friday. Three midweek socials; life was never this hectic in London. Latvians really know how to have a good time.

Let me start with the pre Jani party. What I write now, is what I thought I learnt on Tuesday, so I apologise in advance to my Latvian readers if I get this wrong. Jani takes place over 2 days commencing on 23rd June and finishing on the 24th, which just happens to be Janis’s name day (John in the UK). The origin’s of Jani is lost in the mists of time, but it is thought that at one time it was celebrated over a wide part of eastern if not western Europe. Jani was originally celebrated on the 21st June to commemorate midsummer solstice, however with the coming of Christianity it was moved to John’s name day, so  St John the Baptist could be celebrated. Continue reading

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Have you seen the little piggies crawling in the dirt?

Bonus point if you get the band and album from which this song was taken.

Never mind the piggies though, because it occurred to me, over the weekend, that I rarely see any animals in the fields in Latvia. I think I remember seeing a dairy herd somewhere on the road to Limbazi, but that is it; no pigs, no beef, no lamb or geese. So where does all the meat and dairy produce come from. If it is imported and then sold as Latvian, that is illegal and unethical and if all livestock are kept in barns then that is akin to factory farming which surprises me about the Latvians and their closeness to nature. I would be grateful for any answers to this question.

Whilst on the subject of food, why can’t I buy a good beef steak at the butchers or some nice shellfish like mussels and scallops at the market in Riga. Very disappointing

 

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Shopping Blues

Shopping seems to have become our most popular pastime since arriving in Latvia. Late yesterday Inta invited one of her cousins for lunch today (Sunday). The fact that we had no food in the fridge coupled with the fact that we only got home about 10.00 last night dictated we embark on an early morning shopping expedition. Amazingly the local farmers market at Kauguri, which we shop at regularly, is open on a Sunday. In fact it is open every day. Lazy is one thing Latvian farmers are not. I suspect the need to sell your produce 7 days per week is drawn out of necessity not desire. As much as I enjoy shopping at local food markets, a Sunday morning lie in bed had much more appeal, but I didn’t really have a choice as Inta doesn’t drive and the basket on her bicycle isn’t big enough. Continue reading

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Week 5 – Englishman goes Viral, Unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank, thank you, thank you. What a crazy 10 days it’s been. I’m plodding along getting my usual 20-50 views per day when I wake up last Thursday to check if any comments need approving or replying to. What I find I is that I’ve had over 200 views over night. I go to work feeling just slightly elated and spend the day watching the number of views increasing rapidly. By the time my head hits the pillow I’ve had over 2000 views.  I wake up in the morning to find that I totalled 2361 views for Thursday and I was already over 4000 views for Friday. To cut a long story short I received just under 17000 views on Friday and a peak of 18503 views on Saturday. I am truly gobsmacked (an English term meaning amazed), that so many people wanted to read about my experiences in Latvia. It really motivates me to keep writing. There has been a downside to this seismic event. I have been so busy reading your comments and replying that I have got behind recording my experiences, so let’s try and catch up. Continue reading

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Latvian Economy – I don’t get it.

I recently had need of a bicycle pump. I noticed on the road out of Riga, just past Spice, a sign saying Elkor Sports. So in we went. WOW!!!! Possible the best stocked sports shop I’ve ever seen. Huge range of bicycles, gym equipment, clothing, shoes etc etc The amount of stock they had was staggering. Now for the but. BUT there were no customers, just loads of employees. Now his is not an unusual occurrence in Latvia. There are more shopping centres per head of population than anywhere I’ve seen on my travels through Europe.

To the retail shopping enthusiast, Latvia must be a paradise. The shopping centres are great. Containing their fair share of designer shops, they are a delight to shop in. Why? Because they are never busy.

So  here’s the conundrum. In order to keep their business afloat, wages and rents must be low. If wages are low, who shops there. If rents are low, who would want to invest there.  Your answers would be greatly appreciated so I can continue with my Latvian education

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Latvian Conspiracy Uncovered

When in the UK, no matter how hard I tried, I could never find a pair o slippers I liked. I now know why. It seems like Latvia imports the 90% of the worlds production of slippers. Every home you go to has at least 20 pairs at the font door. All shapes, sizes and colours are available to the casual visitor. I dread to think what happens at Jani if it rains and celebrations have to be held indoors. Do homeowners keep a secret stock of them for such events? The ritual of taking shoes of when entering a home wasn’t something we did as kids. As one of five children who were constantly in and out of home, together with our five cousins I think mum would have had a heart attach If she had tried to make us take our shoes of every time we came inside. I have to admit though it is a very practical and respectful practice but one that still irritates me, a legacy from my childhood I expect.

Whilst on the issue of homes, every home I have visited has a money plant (naudas koks), a Christmas cactus (ziemassvetku kaktuss) and orchids (orhideja). Now can somebody please explain why these three, when there are hundreds of different indoor plants available at “Depot”. Inta tells me that when you plant a money tree you must put a coin underneath it and plant it in a green pot. This is meant to encourage personal and family wealth. I am told that if you keep the money plant in a kitchen you will always have food. Now if we work on the principal that the resources of the world are finite, it means that if somebody gets something, somebody loses something. So if everybody in the world had a money tree this wouldn’t work.

One final observation. Every home seems to have a minka (cat). Not sure why and have no theories? I look forward to your suggestions.

I am sure there are many more stories and old wives tales people would like to share. I look forward to reading your comments

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My Favourite Latvian Foods

I love food, so I just thought I’d share with you my favourites since arriving here.

  1. Karums (don’t know the generic term for them) – for those non-Latvians reading this I better explain what they are. They are a small block of cottage cheese blended with full fat cream, given a flavour and then given a very thin layer of chocolate. My favourite is probably blueberry, Inta’s vanilla. Incredibly fattening I imagine but yummy with that first morning cup of coffee.
  2. Chilled beetroot soup (auksta biesu zupa) – now every cook in Latvia will have their own version of this in terms of ingredients and quantities. The version I love, uses small beetroots including the stalks, keffirs, cucumber, radish, spring onion, hard boiled egg, smoked ham and of course the obligatory dill. I just love it. In fact could eat it every day. It’s so refreshing yet at the same time filling.
  3. Pankukas – now these are not the large thin pancakes, but what would be termed back in the UK a drop scone. Again every cook will have their own version, some will use milk – others keffirs, some will use baking powder others yeast. I love Inta’s version when she use’s keffirs and adds cottage cheese into the mixture. Served with full fat sour cream and jam they are addictively yummy.
  4. Potatoes – Why potatoes you may ask? Well they just taste different than the ones back in the UK. I have only eaten so far the ones that come from the farmers market or from Inta’s village and they are yellower than the ones than the ones from the UK supermarkets and definitely have more flavour. Is large scale farming to blame?
  5. Sour Cream – buy it direct from a farmer at a local market. It has a much higher fat content but it’s delicious. Much more versatile than mayonnaise. You can use it on savoury and sweet dishes.
  6. Silkes kazoka – This is a layered salad, whose essential ingredients include – shredded cooked beetroot, salted or marinated herring, hard boiled eggs, cooked potatoes and shredded cooked carrots. In the layers there will be a sauce. It will vary what it might be, but is essentially a mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise and horseradish.
  7. Zefirs – These are like a firm flavoured creamy, marshmallow, coated with sugar. They are very fattening, utterly addictive and great with coffee. My favourite is Lama’s blueberry.
  8. Dill – In the UK I used to cook a lot, but hardly ever used to use dill always parsley. I always thought it had no smell or flavour, that was until Inta re-introduced it to me. Its so fragrant and you can use it on any savoury dish. A very versatile herb.
  9. Mazsaliti gurki – These are small cucumbers marinaded in brine with blackcurrant, horseraddish and garlic leaves. You only leave them to marinade for a short period of time. You can eat them after just a few hours, Delicious.
  10. Negi (Lamprey in English) – Virtually extent in the UK due to over fishing. They look like an eel but are in fact a fish. They are about 30 cm long from memory, and use their mouths as a sucker to attach themselves to rocks. Had them fresh last October in Salacgriva. The fisherman barbecued them for us. Ate them whole, head, tail everything. They are not boned and gutted. They have no bones. Very delicious.

Love to hear what Latvians favourite Latvian foods are. Must go Inta has just made pankukas. Byte for  now

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Week 4 – Making Progess

Sorry this post is later than usual but have had a very busy weekend planning and celebrating Inta’s birthday. I won’t say which one as it’s a lady’s prerogative to disclose her age.

Last week started off with a bang, literally. I decided to get into work early because I had some unfinished problems to solve from the previous Friday. Got to school about 7.15 am, still really thinking I was at my last school where teachers started arriving at 6.00 am, just as the heavens opened up and there was the heaviest thunderstorm I had experienced for many years. Waiting in the car for a few minutes until a pause in the rain, I could see with relief that the lights in school were on. There was a slight break in the rain so I dashed to the front doors only to find them locked. I then remembered I had been given a magnetic key card which opened the doors. Made my way to the office and just as I put my hand on the door handle, yes you guessed right, the security alarm went off. Having no means to set the alarm I had to sit in reception, like a naughty schoolboy, waiting for someone to come a reset the alarm. Embarrassing to say the least and I was lucky that a teacher arrived before 2 armed burly Latvian policemen did. Continue reading

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Week 3 – What a roller coaster

Wow what a roller coaster of a week; started going down, then went up, went down again and then finished with a wonderful weekend in Latgale region. The week started off on Monday with us going to immigration to register. Unfortunately we couldn’t, because my contract at school only lasted to the end of the school year. I will be getting a new contract for next year but haven’t got it yet. We then went to a bank to try and open a bank account but yet again ran into a stone wall because of the limited length of the school contract. The day ended fantastically when we agreed to buy a house in Limbazi. We had seen this house on the internet, many months ago, whilst in the UK. It seemed to have all the features we were looking for and had a similar feel top our flat in Isleworth, which we loved so much. So it was with much relief that we were able to agree a price with the vendors. They are a really nice young couple, she is an artist and he is a sales and marketing director with a Latvian company who manufacture wooden pre built houses which are assembled on site. We met for lunch on Wed to try and agree contract details. Selling a house in Latvia is much simpler than in the UK but much more costly as you have to pay income tax on any profit you make on the sale of your home. So you have to try a come to an agreement with the vendors as to how much you pay for the house and how much you pay for fixtures and fittings and equipment. Secondly it doesn’t seem to matter whether a contract for purchase or contract for sale is written as long as both parties agree to it. A friend of Inta’s is writing the contract so we are just waiting for the terms the vendors want including. I hope the sale can be concluded before the end of July. I will keep you updated.

So we agreed the purchase and we were on an up. Tuesday started well when I received a call from the bursar saying a new contract to July 2015 was ready for me to collect. I would now be able to register with immigration. We were also recommended a bank who might open a bank account for me. Latvian banks seen obsessed about money laundering and I had to prove where my money was coming from. So off we went, not sure what Inta and Oksana (the person we met at the bank) were talking about, I was a silent partner for most of the time, but I filled in a load of forms in English, Inta filled them again in Latvian and they were sent off to head office for a decision to be made. We got a phone call the following day saying they had agreed to open an account for me. Yippee things were finally moving forward. I could get pain from work now and transfer my euros from the UK which are sat in an offshore account somewhere. Off to the bank again, signed all the forms, got my account number and found out I could have a special account because I am 60. Fantastic. The problem is there is always a but. I was told that I can transfer my funds from the UK, but I can’t withdraw them until I can prove where they came from. So I can’t buy the house or a new car until I can prove the source. I gave them emails and completion statement from my solicitor and a bank statement printed from the internet. We are waiting for an answer. If this isn’t enough I will have to wait until the original documents come in the post. Nightmare!!!!

After last Friday, at school, the school director sent an email to all staff with a photo, telling them what a fantastic job I had done fixing all the Samsung netbooks for them. I wish she had never sent it because this Friday I had a really unproductive day. Started trying to fix a couple of Samsung Laptops which kept freezing. Spent hours trying to solve the puzzle and backup unsaved data, but to no avail. Decided I would have to reimage the machines, but there were no images and no original disks. So downloaded an ISO image from the Microsoft website, but couldn’t get it to run. Bad day at work, name will be mud now.

I write this blog looking out over a beautifully ploughed vegetable patch, listening to the birds sing and the bees buzzing around me, in one of my favourite places on the planet, in a place the vast majority of people, thankfully, have never heard of or visit. We are staying at Intas’ god parents farm which is about 30 km from the border with Belorussia. Since the end of the Soviet era and centralised agricultural planning, the forests and wildlife have flourished.

 

Wild boar are in abundance, as are elk, beaver and deer. In this particular area possums also thrive. The diversity of different trees in the forests are a wonder to behold as are the meadows of wild flowers which have an amazing number of medicinal and culinary uses. Even the trees have medicinal uses. Yesterday we went picking the new buds from a certain type of pine tree. Tomorrow, we will put them in a bottle, until half full and then pour vodka over them. I can hear the cynics out there saying that this is just another way of drinking vodka. No you are wrong. It should be used in winter when you can feel the start of a sore throat or cough. Apparently it tastes disgusting and you have to drink it slowly so it covers the throat properly. I’ll let you know if it works in the winter. There is still a bartering type of economy here. Yesterday and today a local fisherman called round with some fish he had just caught in the nearby lake. I knew they were fresh because they were looking at me gasping for air and asking me to save them.

 

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What they didn’t know is that I love fresh pan fried fish. I don’t know the weight of them but krustmate (godmother) paid him 10 Marlborough cigarettes and some honey, from her bee hives, for the lot. Seems a bargain to me. Had a sauna last night, missed the whipping with birch branches because Inta forgot to collect them from the forest. Not too upset about that.

We spent Saturday planting potatoes and seeds of many other vegetables. I’ve found muscles I didn’t know I had and gained some new knowledge when we eventually buy our own house in the country. The only drawback for me is that the Latvia insect life seems to like my blood. Itching all over my arms at the moment.

Sadly we’ll be leaving in a couple of hours, car loaded with organic honey, potatoes, carrots and bags full with leaves and flowers to make herbal teas. Life here is obviously a very healthy one. Krustmate and her husband Alexandre are both in their eighties and have more energy and stamina then many half their age or younger. He continues to drive his tractors, cut down trees and chop up the logs ready for winter, whilst she keeps the home, and plants all the food they will grow over the spring and summer. They are just wonderful people and even though I don’t understand a word they say we do manage to communicate.

Got a 5 hour journey ahead of me now back to Riga. It’s not too far but with poor roads and a speed limit of 90 kph (60 mph) it takes a while. I’m doing my first day as a substitute teacher tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

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Eight things you didn’t know about Latvians

Decided to update my list after living here for a few months now. The first 6 items were on my original list. 

  1. They don’t eat crisps or peanuts with beer – Crisps and peanuts are definitely off the menu when drinking beer. Instead you eat herby garlic croutons or salted, dried fish known locally as Vobla (pronounced wobbler). It’s a bit like chewing salty leather to start off with but you quickly get in to it. Due to the fact that it is very salty you need more beer to wash it down.
  2. They like to sing. – I don’t mean singing in the shower or around home, although they probably do that as well, but they like to gather in big crowds to sing. I mean really big crowds. In fact so big crowds that the singers at the back probably can’t see the conductor at the front. Every 5 years the Latvian Song and Dance Festival takes place. The last one in 2013 had over 30,000 performers, Impressive!!
  3. Tea doesn’t always mean Tetley or PG Tips – The Latvians are very in touch with nature. So any plant which has some medicinal properties is dried and made in to a tea. My favourite is mint and chamomile with organic honey.
  4. If it moves they smoke it. No that’s not street tall for killing. They seem to have a great affinity for smoked food; in the markets you can find virtually all fish and animals smoked and ready to eat. In the local market they even had smoked pigs ears and snouts.
  5. Most Latvians have a summer house.- No not a shed at the bottom of the garden but a second house in the countryside. Many Latvians rent a second house for the summer and some own a summer house. Come Friday in the summer city dwellers hit the road and head for the countryside. I’m told it can be a bit like a Le Mans start or Friday afternoon heading north out of London on the M1. In fact some people live permanently in their country houses during the summer months.
  6. Latvian men like to wear hats made out of oak trees – Ok I exaggerate. Oak tree branches and only  on one day of the year. Midsummer day is a time to celebrate and the men wear a ring of oak branches around their head. As everyone knows oak is a very strong wood and the significance of a man wearing this is that he is strong. Obvious really.
  7. Latvians love to forage for food in the forests, particularly mushrooms and berries.
  8. Saunas are a necessity if you live in a country house. A very popular pastime particularly being beaten by branches of a birch tree.
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Reflections of Week 2

Reflections on Week 2

It’s just dawned on me that I’m impatient. I want things to happen now not next week or next month. Does that mean I’m a spoilt brat. I dare say my siblings would say I am. I blame my parents. It seems to be taking so long to so sort so many things out.

I still can’t tell you if we have bought a house yet. We’ve entered the negotiation stage and put in our offer, but the vendors are playing mind games with us I think and haven’t got back to us yet. Going on the premise that no news is good news, perhaps I shouldn’t worry, but it is 3 days since we placed our offer.

The big step forward this week is that I obtained my employment contract from school. So what you might ask. Well this means that I can now open a bank account, then transfer my euros from the UK, and purchase a house and car. Still have to register with immigration, but now I have my employment contract, medical record book (everyone who teaches must have one of these and have it updated every year) and foreigners medical insurance I’ll be able to do this tomorrow.

I’ve been travelling to Latvia for nearly 6 years now and it is great to see the changes taking place. When I first visited, the recession was just happening and Latvia suffered a bigger crash than many. Property developments were left unfinished and there was a general sense of doom and gloom. However although they are still not out of the woods, there are signs everywhere that the worst is behind them. Unlike many European cities Riga has many traditional old wooden buildings right in its centre, and many of these buildings are now being restored. The property sector of the economy appears to be booming, new developments appearing everywhere. If the number of Porsche Cayennes on the road is anything to go by, life is very prosperous for some in Latvia.

One worry I had about moving to Latvia, was would I be able to find a supply of reasonably priced and reasonable quality wines. Worry over, Inta and myself spent a pleasurable half hour in Eurovins in Riga and walked away with 6 bottles having only spent 33 euros. Bargain!!!!

Wandering round markets is one of my favourite past-times. So I’m in my element here as there are so many. Yesterday we discovered two, a local farmers market not far from where we are living and an artisan market in Riga called “Kalnciema Kvartalas”. What was noticeable at both markets is that there was very little imported produce. The only imported produce we saw was fruit, so if it’s not in season you can’t buy it. Soured cream and cottage cheese are two popular dairy products. My Latvian step-daughter may have a fridge full of food, but if she has no soured cream then, there is nothing to eat. It’s soured cream with everything and the higher fat content the better. It really is delicious, nothing like Tesco’s own. If you want to try something near the real stuff buy the Polish variety. Tesco’s stock it and it is labelled “kwaśna śmietanav”. Latvians use it on virtually anything and everything and instead of mayonnaise. The creativity in the artisan market was a joy to behold, everything from home-made Vodka to smoked Ostrich sausages and lots more in between. Not cheap but great quality. The vodka was excellent.

Still trying to get in to a routine. I expect that won’t happen until August when the new school year happens and we have our own house. In the meantime there is lots to look forward to; the International Choir Olympics being one of them and June 21st (Midsummers day or Ligo Diena in Latvian), when the whole of Latvia tries to get into the countryside to party.

 

 

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First Day at Work in Latvia

A very interesting first day at the International School of Latvia. I’m not sure what the leadership team in my previous schools would think about if they could see, students not wearing uniforms, pupils hugging pupils, teachers hugging pupils, teachers hugging teachers, no bells between lesson and the school director collecting dirty plates in the dining hall. But hey it seems to work and the school is thriving. The school takes most of its students from the international business community and the diplomatic core in Riga. In fact some of teachers have spouses in the diplomatic core.

Spent all day trying to bring back to life 11 Samsung Netbooks which had sat around gathering dust. Tried switching them on and off and on again but this didn’t seem to work. Mr Richardson, I won’t be taking any advice from you again. Why anybody would want to buy these I don’t know, but I would consider my day successful; got 7 out of the 11 working, school management were happy. I’m going to be spending at least every Friday doing tech support, other days in the future will be filled doing supply (substitute) teaching, managing the school information management system, a little ICT teaching and French teaching to KS2 pupils. Yes you read it correctly, French. My old French teacher at Bolton School will be having a long laugh if reads this. I wasn’t the best of French students.

I look forward to keeping you updated with my school experiences.

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What Car?

Need to buy a car but it seems much more complicated here and the criteria are different than the UK. Due to a lack of investment during the Soviet period of occupation, the roads compared to the UK are pretty bad. If you suffer from sea sickness then you need to take pills when you are driving. In Riga, the capital city, many of the main roads have huge tyre grooves, due to years and years of heavy goods vehicles travelling along them. Sometimes trying to get out of these grooves is downright dangerous particularly when trying to overtake. I’ve just realised why so few drive in inside lanes where all the HGV’s and coaches/buses travel. Oh, forgot to mention that many roads in Riga are made from cobblestones and uneven ones at that. To make matters worse the tram lines run down the centre of the roads which are uneven at the best of times, and on cobbled roads they tend to slope towards the pavement. Downright dangerous when trying to get out of the way of a tram which has right of way.

Out of Riga only the main roads have an asphalt surface. Off the main carriageways most of the roads have a rough sandstone gravel surface which in the summer creates clouds of dust and is incredibly noisy as the gravel hits your wheel arches.

So What Car? Can’t really afford or justify a luxury 4×4 such as Range Rover, so thinking of a crossover such as a Toyota Rav4 or VW Tiguan.

Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. Must be economical to drive and be in region of 140 bhp, so driving back to the UK will be easy and not too costly.

Word of warning to anyone thinking of driving to Latvia. In the UK I’ve been stopped and booked for speeding 4 times in 43 years of driving. In Latvia and Lithuania I’ve been stopped for speeding 4 times in the 3 periods (5 weeks) of time I’ve spent here. You just have to know the rules as there are so few speed limit signs. Luckily I’ve not been booked yet or had to pay a fine. Just tell them I don’t speak Latvian/Lithuanian and I don’t have any cash on me. I suspect the cash wouldn’t end up in government coffers.

 

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