Expat has left the building

So Latvia, it seems like our time together has come to an end. Now, now, hold it together. It’s true that we’ve had our ups and downs, but I like to think that, overall, it’s been more positive than negative. By the way, I have no idea how a last blog post is supposed to go. Should it be a summary of the last four years of my life? An emotional outpouring?

2014-09-09 12.07.09

My ‘kitchen’ is going with me…

With regard to the former, it’s been… I’m not sure I can cram the last four years of my life into a pithy paragraph. It’s been pretty much every adjective you can think of, and then some.

I’ve met some great people (and some complete wankers), had good times and bad, been poor (and slightly less poor), worked hard, played hard, tried to see as much of the country as I could (or the 50% of it that isn’t covered in forest, anyway), and tried to gain some sort of understanding of, and insight into, the Latvian people. Some think I failed utterly in this; others think I nailed it – but hey, I’m on the bus now so you can’t argue with me. (Though feel free to duke it out in the comments section.)

And the emotional outpouring? Sorry, but that’s not going to happen. Not because I don’t have any emotions – quite the opposite. Right now, I’ve got so many conflicting emotions that I’m doing my best not to let any of them surface at all. Consider me in ‘numb auto-pilot’ mode.

In what may be some sort of attempt at self-preservation (or me finally going round the twist), my brain has stopped focusing on the enormity of things and is firmly fixating on the small, banal things. In fact, for the last couple of days, I’ve had a running narration of what I’m up to going on in my head. Things like:

Linda closed the door decisively and strode across her courtyard for the last time. 

Linda defiantly tossed back her long glossy mane pint and bade farewell to Riga, the Paris of the North. 

That sort of thing. That’s normal, right?

Anyway, normal or not, it’s me. Let’s hope the Germans can handle it as well as the Latvians did (cough). You can find out at Expat Eye on Germany – there’s nothing really there yet but, trust me, there will be…

So, before this becomes even more long-winded and rambling, Latvia, I leave you with this final, profound thought:

2014-09-08 23.00.15

My photographer couldn’t figure out my ‘ancient’ phone – and also, thank you Lasma! Carpe that fucking diem ;)

I raise my glass to you and wish you all the best in the future.

Atā un visu labu.

Linda O’Greidija. (Snigger.)

 

 

 

Posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Latvian people, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 164 Comments

The Russian does Riga

Wednesday saw the arrival of my new best friend, Anna. Long-time readers will know that Anna and I have been following each other’s blogs for a while now and have become friends through lengthy comment and email chains – mainly bonding over unreliable boys and always-reliable booze.

I met her at the airport and we taxied back to my place. I was afraid that if she got a taxi by herself, she might just turn it around again when she saw my beautiful street. But luckily, my Russian princess turned out to be not such a princess after all, and had packed enough clothes for her 6-day trip into a bag the size of my make-up bag.

First up, it was time for second breakfast at Double Coffee, overlooking the park, canal and opera house. Breakfast cocktails were also on the agenda. We Russian and Irish ladies don’t do things by halves – even at 10.30am.

Sufficiently fed and vodka-ed, we made our way to the meeting point for the 2.5 hour cultural walking tour of Riga, which I’d never done before. I highly recommend it if you’re only in town for a couple of days, as it hits all of Riga’s main sights, including the Art Nouveau district, Old Town and several parks. And, best of all, it’s free, though tips are appreciated. Even after living here for close to four years, there were still some tidbits about Riga that I didn’t know.

Spot the Bavarian...

Spot the Bavarian…

The weather was absolutely perfect and Anna took approximately a gazillion photos, totally charmed by Riga. She was not so charmed by the tour guide, however. The commentary went something like “Latvia is the best, Russia is evil, Latvia was the first to…, Russia is evil, Latvia is amazing, Russia is evil.” Whenever she said something unflattering about the German occupation, she apologised to the Germans on the tour. Anna got a “You have something to say me?” I was secretly hoping Anna would pulverise her but she was remarkably restrained, and limited herself to some growling and gripping of my shoulder.

After walking for almost 3 hours, we’d definitely earned a pint, so it was off to Rozengrals, Riga’s medieval bar/restaurant. I’d sent Anna a rough list of places we might go and things we might see, which she’d turned into a military-style checklist – complete with map. She then proceeded to circle each thing we managed to do. Rozengrals was on the list. Circle.

The medieval guy was around the corner - on his smartphone.

The medieval guy was around the corner – on his smartphone.

Now, as any Latvian knows, one of the things you have to do to any visitor, is torture them with the local paint-stripper, Rigas Balzams. Anna was no exception. We headed to the Black Magic café, where Balzams is almost three times more expensive than any other bar, but these things have to be done.

I could write a description of how absolutely vile the original Black Balzams is, but Anna’s reaction, in pictures, sums it up far more eloquently than I ever could…

Attempting to prepare herself...

Attempting to prepare herself…

 

Here we go!

Here we go!

 

Wait for it...

Wait for it…

There it is!

There it is!

It's official. Even the Russians can't drink it.

It’s official. Even the Russians can’t drink it.

From there, it was off to Moloney’s for a quick pint before soaking up the booze with probably the best burger I’ve had in four years’ living here – thank you, Street Burgers. After a quick trip to Ala to spy on Latvian folk dancers, Anna had had enough so we called it a night and went back to my place.

What Latvians get up to when they think nobody's watching.

What Latvians get up to when they think nobody’s watching.

The next morning, we were up at the crack of dawn and off to Cadets de Gascogne in pretty Berga Bazars for a light breakfast of pastries, tea and Blackcurrant Balzams. When in Riga…

The perfect start to the day

The perfect start to the day

Then it was off to take in a couple of sights that the tour hadn’t covered, including central market. This would prove to be a mistake. It turns out that Russians love nature every bit as much as Latvians. If you ever want to see either nationality orgasm over a mushroom, take them to central market in September.

Knee-tremblers

Knee-tremblers

Once every goddamn mushroom, berry and flower ever picked had been photographed from every conceivable angle, we hopped on the tram to “big” Lido, so that Anna could eat her own body weight in traditional Latvian fare.

After gorging ourselves on food – and beer, it was back to THE LIST. Cocktail hour at the Skyline Bar was next on the agenda.

2014-09-04 17.03.46

 

Riga's Favourite

Riga’s Favourite

Unfortunately, this is where things took a bit of a nasty turn. Over the course of the two days, we got chatting to a lot of people of a lot of different nationalities. Everything would go swimmingly until Anna said that she was from Russia. Then the badgering and the abuse started. I can understand that Russia is top of most people’s minds right now and that people are curious about the Russian viewpoint; what I can’t understand is just how RUDE people can be, persisting in interrogations and accusations when it’s perfectly clear that it’s causing offence or upset. “I think Putin is worse than Hitler” is not a good way to open any sort of meaningful dialogue.  Back off, people. In the end, Anna just said she was from New York. Then, she only got blamed for shooting John Lennon.

Anyway, we didn’t let it ruin the rest of her trip and after a quick bite at the ever-wonderful Flying Frog Café, we hit the bars of Old Town one last time.

Anna communing with nature - again.

Anna communing with nature – again.

Anna, thank you so much for visiting and I hope you enjoyed your time here as much as I did. Latvian Tourism Board, you’re welcome.

 

Posted in Food, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Riga, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 152 Comments

Like Latvia, or else…

Latvians have this quirky little habit of overselling everything that is Latvian. Everything from the crumbling charms of Kalnciema Kvartals, to the ramshackle one-horse town that is Pavilosta, has been described to me as “stunning”.

Stunning?

Stunning

Actually, it’s probably advisable not to tell Latvians where you’re going ahead of time – they’ll get your expectations up far too much over something that is probably “fine” or “nice”, at best. A Swedish friend of mine recently suggested adding “for Latvia” to the end of every sentence to keep excitement suitably dampened.

Sven: How’s your curry?

Me: Yeah, it’s pretty good – for Latvia. 

*

Sven: How was the service?

Me: Yeah, it was pretty good – for Latvia. 

See what I did there?

However, nothing or nobody is guilty of overselling Latvia more than the Facebook page, If you like Latvia, Latvia likes you, the implication being , of course, that if you don’t like Latvia, or dare to point out a couple of things that bug you, Latvia will hang, draw and quarter you, then feed your shredded remains to the gangs of feral cats that roam the streets of Riga.

"I hear Irish women are tasty..."

“I hear Irish bitches are tasty…”

Now I get that it’s a government-sponsored page so they have to do their best at promoting the modest charms of Latvia, but this site is so saccharine-soaked and overly-optimistic that it almost gives me a seizure every time I look at it – sort of like a Latvian David Brent, on crack. Deivids Brants…

Here are a few little gems I just had to share. (I like it when other people suffer with me.)

Summer in Latvia is something truly unique. You can experience everything possibly imaginable – from rapid rivers and deep green forests, to vivid cornfields all over the country. (Twitches.)

We like to say that the journey is more important than the destination (except when your destination is Latvia, of course). This is exactly why there are so many ways to unravel the amazing sights of this wonderful country of ours. (Grinds teeth.) 

Have you heard about the Versailles of Latvia? We’re talking about the Rundāle Palace, of course. The 18th-century Baroque palace recently celebrated the completion of 50 years of renovation work. A truly magnificent site, it can undoubtedly be called the Versailles of not only Latvia, but the whole of Northern Europe. (Sniggers.)

Amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, welcoming and only 813 years old? Yes, your guess is correct – it’s the breathtaking city of Riga. (Keels over, clawing at eyes…)

There’s a thing we can say for sure – we, Latvians, really love our wildlife. From amazing lakes and forests to astonishing butterflies in all colours and sizes. (Silently weeps.)

Don’t get me wrong – there is some useful information on the site, and of course there are plenty of places in Latvia worth visiting. There’s just something about the peppy, super happy-clappy (frankly, very unLatvian), almost cult-like style of delivery that gets on my wick. It also results in readers getting dangerously over-excited:

Capture

Dude, put the Kool-Aid down…

If my blog can be accused of being overly negative realistic, then this site is definitely the antidote you’ve been looking for. In fact, it’s pretty good – for Latvia.

The amazing, fabulous, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, breath-taking Rundale Palace

The amazing, fabulous, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, breath-taking Rundale Palace

 

 

Posted in Humor, Humour, Latvia, Riga, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 154 Comments

Why do people move to Latvia?

Should you take the leap and decide to move to Latvia, the first question you will probably be asked is “Why did you move to Latvia?”. Closely followed by, “But why? Why Latvia?”. Now I know why I moved here, as do the rest of you at this stage, but maybe you’re curious about what brings other foreigners here. Maybe not, but that’s what this post is about so… tough.

As people love lists and categories, and I love sweeping generalisations, I’ve compiled the ultimate list of what makes people move to Latvia. This in-depth research is based on four years of going out and talking to people – very scientific, I know. Of course, there are some people who don’t fit into any category (cough – on the run – cough), and some people who fit into several, but hey, people are pesky like that. Here goes:

The Scandinavian Super-Humans

Seriously, what is it with Scandinavian people? Are they all smart, friendly, open, funny, pragmatic and positive, or just the ones who go abroad? Certainly, the ones I’ve met in Riga have been intimidatingly perfect – but in the nicest possible way. They work for international companies, they open their own businesses, they invest in other people’s businesses, they set up support networks, they provide opportunities, they give free advice – and still manage to find time to keep themselves in shape and be nice to everyone. Is it any wonder people sometimes think I’m Scandinavian? (OK, that never happens.)

The English Teachers

Latvia doesn’t really attract the fresh-out-of-uni Tristans and Quentins wondering what to do with their lives and still unable to use a washing machine. I guess the lure of ping-pong shows in Thailand wins out over the prospect of six months of snow in Latvia. No, the English teachers here tend to be of a more mature breed. They come from all walks of life and, of the ones I know, I’m probably the youngest (and the only woman). Most of them are in relationships with locals and are generally quite a sedate lot. Present company excluded.

The Femme Followers

These are the men (not being sexist, but I don’t know a woman who’s done it) who meet a Latvian abroad, get into a serious relationship and decide to give living in Latvia a go. This is usually done at the suggestion of the Latvian missus, who misses home and promises a family-friendly, inexpensive, quieter, nature-filled way of life. I can see the appeal. And for some, it works out.

Your palace awaits

Your palace awaits

However, BEFORE you decide to sell everything you own in the UK, or wherever, live here for a year first. Don’t base your decision on a few weeks of beer and shashliks in summer, when the country is at its best, and there’s music on every corner. Investing everything you have in setting up a life here (and it will be more expensive than you think) is all well and good, BUT if you change your mind in a few years, selling everything you own here won’t afford you the same luxuries at “home”. Think on.

The Russian Romanticists

These are people who are fascinated by Russia and the Russian language, but not quite fascinated enough to move to Russia. They move here to improve their Russian skills, while still being in the comfort zone of the EU. Not sure how the Latvians feel about this…

The Latvia Lovers

An interesting bunch. These people feel some connection to Latvia, despite having no actual connection to Latvia. Despite having got off the plane around 10 minutes ago, they will pooh-pooh your advice on living here because they already know it all. After a couple of Latvian lessons, they’ll be correcting foreigners’ pronunciation and Latvians’ grammar. They do weird things like staying in all day baking piparkūkas (gingerbread cookies) and posting pictures of them on Facebook. Then, presumably, sitting down and eating them all by themselves because both the locals and the foreigners think they’re total loonies.

The Opportunistic Optimists

The people who think that Latvia really is brīnumzeme (land of miracles) when it comes to untapped resources and opportunities. Then they realise that they are in LATVIA, dealing with LATVIANS, and that half-assed is considered “normal”.

Really?? You couldn't have just filled in both sides?

Really?? You couldn’t have just filled in both sides?

The Management Mutineers also fall under this heading. They are generally sent here to manage the “Northern” European branch of an international company. You’ll find them wondering why, despite assurances from head office that everyone speaks three languages, nobody is speaking to each other, let alone them, in any of them. The rest of the time, they’re browsing recruitment websites.

 The Pervy Posse

I’ve talked about this before, but if you don’t like links, these men (I use the term loosely) can be found in and around various bars in old town, leering at women young enough to be their daughters, and (laughably) thinking they’re in with a shot. But just because I’m feeling kind tonight, I’ll give them a glimpse of what they’ll probably never see again in real life.

There. Don't say I never give you anything.

There. Don’t say I never give you anything.

The Latvia Lifers

This group can be split into two. On one hand, you’ve got the people that have made a real life for themselves here and are perfectly happy. On the other, you’ve got the people who didn’t much like Latvia when they arrived, yet are inexplicably, and very vocally, still here decades later. Having realised that I will probably never be in the first camp, I’ve made a firm decision never to find myself in the second.

So, what do you think? Have I missed anyone? Is this Latvia-specific or could it be applied to any country? 

 

Posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Latvian people, Moving to Riga, TEFL, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 131 Comments

Jānis and Gunta, sittin’ in a tree…

I recently agreed to do an interview for The Northern California Review (ZK Apskats) – a bulletin published by the Northern Californian Latvian Association. While my dealings with the Latvian media have been, on the whole, dire, I thought that this might be a fun thing to do. And, as it would mainly be read by Latvians living in California, there would be a pleasing amount of distance between me and the target audience.

California. It's very far away.

California. It’s very far away.

Being interviewed was kind of a weird experience, but I think it went quite well. Or maybe I sounded like a total muppet. Hard to say. One of the questions did, however, prick my conscience a little – and I hate it when that happens…

Do you think you have helped to erase any stereotypes about Latvians or created more?

Hmm.

OK, first of all, what are the stereotypes about Latvians? Are there any? I know that I didn’t have any before I came here. In fact, I’d rarely given Latvia or Latvians a second thought. I’d only met two Latvians in my life, and they both seemed like rather jolly ladies. (Possibly because they’re now living in Ireland.)

A quick Google search didn’t reveal much, though this comment on Yahoo! Answers made me chuckle.

Restrained
Pessimistic
Tall and slim
Blonde and attractive
Germanic
Fascists
Nationalistic
Handlebar moustache-wearing
Folk singing Pagans

For all the Latvians’ posturing and bluster, it seems like the only countries that have any stereotypes/opinions of them at all are their dear neighbours – the Estonians (Latvians have six toes), and the Lithuanians (Latvians are horse-heads). I know…

Me, sitting on a Latvian

Me, sitting on a Latvian

 

I’d hazard a guess that many of my foreign readers knew very little of Latvia or Latvians before reading this blog – which, I suppose, is where I have to take some responsibility.

So what do readers take away from this blog? As a bare minimum, they now know one of the most popular men’s names, they know that Latvians are rather fond of nature, that they’re not particularly fond of smiling or small talk, and that the “fashion” here may hurt their retinas.

Sorry.

Ouch.

Are these stereotypes? Possibly. Are they true? I think so, but then, as a critic, I’m very easy on myself – somebody has to be.

So, I open it to the floor:

To my foreign readers: What, if anything, did you know about Latvians before you started reading this blog? What do you think of Latvians now?

To my Latvian readers: Have I helped to create/erase stereotypes about Latvians? Is there anything in the blog that is woefully inaccurate? 

To the foreigners living here: What were your opinions of Latvia/Latvians before you came here? Have they changed?

Let’s get this party started…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Culture and Traditions, Expat, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Latvian people, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 196 Comments

The Latvians’ Lair

Oh Latvians! You thought you were home free, didn’t you? You thought I wouldn’t find it. I know what you were thinking – “Well, she’s been here nearly four years and she hasn’t found it yet. What are the chances of her finding it in her last three weeks?” Oh ye of little faith…

Where have you been all my life?

Where have you been all my life?

Yes, tucked away in a quiet corner of the city, far from the tourist-trodden paths, lies Brālis Bar. From the outside, it looks pretty much like every other dodgy bar in Riga. In fact, you’d be forgiven for just walking past – quickly. This, however, would be a mistake. For, inside, lies the dirty little secret the Latvians have been hiding from me (and you) for the last four years. Yes, it’s a TOTAL LEOPARD PRINT FEST!

YES!

YES!

There was even a woman in a leopard print scarf sitting in one of the leopard print booths! I felt my knees go weak. I’d struck the leopard print jackpot!

The bar itself is a sports bar, but there’s something rather comical about watching manly-men, surrounded by sports paraphernalia on the walls, cosied up on leopard print sofas – while cheering in a manly way, of course…

Manly men aren't afraid to sit on leopard print sofas.

Manly men aren’t afraid to sit on leopard print sofas.

Naturally, this being a locals’ bar, I felt that I should try to fit in and avoid drawing attention to myself. Luckily, I’d come prepared. Lāsma, in her infinite wisdom, had seen fit to buy me a little gift before she left. I think she may also have psychic abilities. So, much to the bemusement of my drinking buddy, I whipped the gift out of my bag, slipped it on and forced him to take a photo – when he’d stopped laughing and was able to locate me…

Blending in - Latvian-style

Blending in – Latvian-style

I took it off again before the scary-looking barman realised we were taking the piss and we scarpered, feeling triumphant.

If anyone else would like the chance to savour the Surround-Leopard-Print-Experience, Brālis is located on the corner of Tērbatas iela and Tallinas iela. And, for once, the Brālis beer was actually good.

So, apologies Latvians, your secret is out…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Beer, Expat, Fashion, Humor, Humour, Latvia | Tagged , , , | 172 Comments

The Fear

With just over three weeks remaining until I up sticks and move to Berlin, it’s fair to say that THE FEAR has me firmly in its clutches. I’d estimate that around 5% of me is excited, while the other 95% wants to get under my duvet and hide. In fact, if I hadn’t announced publicly that I was leaving, there’s a pretty good chance that I would have quietly chickened out of the whole thing by now. 

For just €90, you too can move in style

For just €90, you too can move in style

Of course, it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to stay. I’ve worked hard over the last couple of years, building up my company and my reputation. Even when it seemed like my reputation was circling the drain, with people telling me I’d never work in this town again, somehow things turned around and I got more work rather than less. People here know me – a blessing and a curse – and most of them like me and trust me. Staying would be the logical thing to do. 

But, I know in my heart that I do not want to stay in Latvia long-term. While I’ve had some good times, there’s just too much about this country that annoys or saddens me. And while ‘blog me’ is happy to have plenty of ranting material, ‘real me’ has been struggling for some time now. Believe it or not, I don’t actually want to be angry or sad. Plus, I have to leave before this ever seems like a good fashion choice. 

This 'gift' was sent to me by Jānis and his lovely wife. It's the gift that just keeps giving...

This was sent to me by Jānis and his lovely wife. It’s the ‘gift’ that just keeps giving…

So, I’m off to Germany. You might be wondering about THE FEAR – after all, it’s not my first time moving country. It is, however, the first time I’ve moved like this. When I moved to Poland, and later to Latvia, I had a job lined up. The schools even provided apartments – I guess they need extra incentives to persuade people to move to this part of the world. I got picked up at the airport, dropped off at my new home, and had a job to go to a few days later. My move to Germany is a bit more like jumping off a cliff, and hoping my good looks, in-depth knowledge of all things leopard print, and a bit of luck of the Irish save me from being smashed to pieces. 

Hello baby. I'm coming for you...

Hello baby. I’m coming for you…

Naturally, I’ve been diligently firing off CVs to every language school in Berlin, but the few that have got back to me want to wait until I’m actually in Berlin to have an interview. So, I guess the plan, if you can call it a plan, is to keep my Latvian company open for a few months until I can set up a German company. Then I start pestering every school in person, hoping someone takes pity on me and gives me some freelance work to get me started. Then I just need to find somewhere to live… Easy, right!? 

There really is no plan B, so a few months from now, you’ll either be reading about how fabulous my new life in Berlin is, or reading about how this Irish expat fell flat on her face.

I guess it will probably be entertaining either way. 

Posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 156 Comments

And people say my area is dodgy…

Another weekend, another “district” challenge. On Saturday afternoon, I walked to the back of Central Station, which is where the crème de la crème of Riga society is known to hang out. I think the pecking order is decided by the number of remaining limbs, but I can’t be sure. 

The Kings of Riga

The Kings of Riga

I found John slouched against a wall, doing his best to blend in with the locals. 

Me: What’s that on your chin?

John: What?

Me: Sauce or random drinking injury?

John: Um… (rubbing his chin and examining his fingers) Sauce. 

Me: Great. 

I peeled him off the wall and we hopped on the “3” trolley bus, bound for Sarkandaugava. Forty minutes of breathless excitement later, we hopped off again. Immediately, we saw a woman who would definitely have been Queen of the Central Station Royal Family – had she been able to afford the bus fare. Not only did she have all of her limbs, she also appeared to have a small tree growing out of the dirt on her feet. 

Proving leopard print really is for everyone

Proving leopard print really is for everyone

With the speed that only a hungover man on the hunt for shashliks can move at, John made a beeline for a bar across the appropriately named Sleazy Street. Sorry, I mean Sliežu Street. 

Roll out the red carpet

Roll out the red carpet

We got our beers and made our way to the semi-terrace where the first thing that struck me was the height of the chairs. I’ve had problems in plenty of bars climbing on (and off) bar stools, but I’d never seen anything quite like this. 

John perked up a bit when his shashliks arrived. Unfortunately, with them came a swarm of wasps through the open windows. John stood up and started trying to bat them away. The sight of a hungover Irish man, dancing about ineffectually swatting at wasps with a little red napkin was too much for the old geezer behind us, who almost chortled himself off his chair. 

A happy man

A happy man

Still, John declared the shashliks edible and after a trip to the smallest bathroom in the world, we walked out, just as the local glitterati were arriving. 

All dressed up for a Saturday afternoon in Sarkandaugava...

All dressed up for a Saturday afternoon in Sarkandaugava…

We made our way over the bridge to our next destination – Kundziņsala. I’ve racked my brain trying to think of something to say about this place, but the only word that springs to mind is “WHY?”

Never thinking that we’d be grateful to be back in Sarkandaugava, we headed for the first bar we found – a recovery pint was in order. This actually proved to be an alright spot. The barman was friendly enough – without speaking or smiling – and the terrace provided some entertainment in the form of a loud Russian family and some rather bemused-looking German tourists. They were probably wondering the same thing I was – “WHY?”

Before the masses arrived

Before the masses arrived

I could quite happily have stayed there for another pint, but John was on a mission so, regretfully, we set off in the direction of Milgravis. We were going to walk it, but on the way, we passed a tram stop. The next tram wasn’t for 30 minutes or so, and an incredibly shady-looking bar was beckoning, so we did what any normal people would do and headed for the bar. 

And you thought you'd seen shady before...

And you thought you’d seen shady before…

Greeted with the glower and grunt that is customary in this part of the world, we grabbed a table in the otherwise empty bar. Quite frankly, I needed to sit down after seeing the “food” they were offering. The Brālis beer was vile and we were about to write the place off and leave when another customer walked in. As luck would have it, she was wearing my favourite t-shirt ever – a real Riga must-have. 

ROARRRRR!

ROARRRRR!

The tram deposited us in a barren wasteland, but even there, it seemed like the locals were expecting me. 

Irish (wait for it...)

Irish (wait for it…)

Whore! (Huzzah!)

Whore! (Huzzah!)

A friend of John’s had told us to walk along Ezers Street, keeping an eye out for drunks on steps, as these would be the best establishments. However, these proved too dodgy even for us and after passing a few toothless Russians who wanted us to join them, we clambered up a stony embankment, over railway tracks and into the “new” part of town. 

No thanks.

No thanks.

A student of John’s, Vineta, had kindly offered to show us the sights and sounds of this part of town, and she rocked up with her two kids a few minutes later. We headed towards a promising looking bar – it’s all relative. 

I think they stole the girl from Lido...

I think they stole the girl from Lido…

As it turned out, you couldn’t actually stay in the bar. I guess the Latvians in this part of town are even MORE sociable than the average Latvian. The woman behind the counter poured our beers into plastic bottles, screwed them shut, and with no other options, we headed back to Vineta’s flat. 

She kept apologising for the mess, but after the places we’d seen, the flat was a palace. She and her husband, Jānis (really), made us feel at home and we enjoyed our beers while listening to tales of their travels – or at least I did, when I wasn’t elbowing John to stop him yawning. Jānis even broke out some Chinese vodka but, honestly, it tasted like what I’d imagine that woman’s tree-feet would taste like. (Don’t worry, I said it to his face – he agreed.)

We finally decided to call it a night, not wanting to out-stay our welcome and knowing that people with kids probably have kid-related stuff to do. But not before taking one final picture of John, who was, by now, too tired to fight me… 

2014-08-09 21.39.43

Heh heh heh…

I can honestly say, I’ve never been so glad to see Avotu iela in my life. (I may have said that after other district challenges – I really mean it this time.)

 

Posted in Beer, Expat, Fashion, Food, Humor, Humour, Moving to Riga, Riga, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 96 Comments

If you can’t beat ‘em, ROARRR!

I had planned on this being the last ever post on Expat Eye on Latvia, but I’ve never been known for my restraint. Call it a case of premature publication, if you will. 

When my friend Lāsma (which definitely doesn’t rhyme with ‘plasma’) announced that she was coming to town, I knew what we had to do. Yes, it was time to go on the hunt for leopard print – after all, who better to accompany me than a Latvian chick? 

We arranged to meet at Galerija Centrs at 4pm on Saturday. All morning, Lāsma had been sending me pictures of random monstrosities she had spotted – I got the feeling that she was enjoying all of this a little too much, but it was too late to back out then. 

No, it isn't.

No, it isn’t.

We walked into Galerija Centrs and hit the first shop we came to – H&M. I really didn’t want this to take long as I hate shopping about as much as I love drinking and talking, so I wanted to get the boring part over with as quickly as possible. Luckily for me, H&M didn’t disappoint. 

I decided to start off small, and work my way up to the grand finale. 

What's new pussycat, yo yo...

What’s new pussycat, yo yo…

Naturally, it was all downhill from there. Spying a pair of leopard print stilettos, I picked them up and went to find a dress that would do them justice. I found it in the form of a leopard print second skin that made me wish I’d been doing my ab workouts a little more religiously. 

I made my way to the changing room, a grinning Lāsma by my side. Unfortunately, the shop assistant wouldn’t let me take the shoes in with me, but like a boy scout, I was prepared, having stuffed a pair of heels into my handbag before I left home. OK, maybe not quite like a boy scout.

I emerged from the changing room. Poor Lāsma was a bit overwhelmed by how stunningly stylish and sexy I looked, and almost dropped my camera in her excitement. 

Butterfingers...

Butterfingers…

I gave her a slap and shouted “Get it together, woman!”. Not really – the dress was far too tight to allow for much movement or lung expansion. After waving some smelling salts under her nose, she finally got it together enough to take a proper photo. Are you ready for this? Let’s hope so. I won’t be responsible for any heart attacks that happen as a result of my insane sexiness…

Purr-fection

Purr-fection

Apologies to the staff at H&M for running around your shop, giggling and taking photos with no intention of actually buying anything. But if anyone’s interested, this dress is a steal at just €9.95. 

Instead, I spent that €9.95 on beer – I felt like I’d earned it. 

Posted in Fashion, Humor, Humour, Latvia, Latvian women | Tagged , , , , , | 146 Comments

A public “apology”

I had hoped to ride out the rest of my time here on a wave of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but then something came up – namely, my hackles. On Monday, I received this as a private message:

Dear Linda An Irish friend of mine just pointed out to me that you mentioned me in a blog. I have now read this and i would like to point out what i actually said to you. I said i lived in Daugavpils and Lived with a Belarussian woman for 5 years and now i am Living with a Latvian woman. Never once did i use the word doing. Of course i realise why you use those words as you like to be controversial and get a reaction from people. I was hoping you would be at the last internations meeting where i would have announced this publicly. I await your public apology on your blog. Of course i will be writing to the internations body to report this matter .

Meh. Potato/pot-ah-to. Much as I dislike threats and demands, in the spirit of sunshine, etc., etc., I decided to let it slide and ignored the message. The post in question was written way back in March. Old news. Then, yesterday, this comment was posted on my blog: 

A Public message to Linda O Grady.
A friend recently pointed out to me that you slandered my name on your blog on March the 30th.
I am the Irishman you referred to in your blog regarding the Internations meeting. Firstly i want to publicly state that you are a LIAR. The conversation was exactly this. I was living in Daugavpils for 5 years with a Belarussian woman and now i am living with a Latvian woman. At no time did i ever mention that i was doing a Russian woman and i am now doing a Latvian as you stated in your blog. Of course i realise why you make controversial statements it is to get a reaction from people. I demand an immediate retraction of this slanderous accusation on my name and a public apology. As a proud Irishman i am ashamed of the fact that you are one of our own.

And yes, believe it or not, he signed it. Fine. If you want an apology that badly, you can have it. Although I probably should advise you to be careful what you wish for in future. 

Me. In apologetic mode.

Me. In apologetic mode.

First of all, I’m sorry that the Irish education system seems to have failed you so completely. While I’m not in the market for any new students, here’s a freebie – in English, the personal pronoun ‘I’ is always capitalised. I could list your other offences against the English language, but I’m kind of busy, and a 5-year-old Latvian could probably do it just as easily. (You can look up ‘slander’ in a dictionary.)

I’m also sorry that when your “friends” read a blog post about a lecherous old expat in Riga, they automatically assume it’s you. I certainly never named anyone. Even more bemusing is that you agree with them. But the most bewildering thing of all is that you then seek public recognition of the fact. Still, it seems like you’re in good company – if my granddad had behaved the way some of the men here do, I’d have had him neutered.

I’m sorry that you don’t understand blogging, or writing in general for that matter. Blogging, like many other forms of writing, is subject to a little creative licence. Or did you really believe that every Latvian man I’ve ever met is called Jānis? You did, didn’t you? Bless your (probably mismatched) cotton socks…

I’m sorry that you couldn’t figure out how to post your comment on the correct post. Instead, you posted it on a totally unrelated post written almost a month later – probably confusing the hell out of anyone reading it. Luckily for you, I noticed and published it here. You can thank me later. 

I’m sorry that I fail to see any of the pride you mentioned in your comment. All I see is a desperate, rather pathetic, bid for attention, and a failed attempt at intimidation. I’m assuming you were egged on by the worm friend in your ear. If they ever do a Latvian remake of “Mean Girls”, you should put yourselves forward. 

And finally, I’m sorry that in the final weeks of this blog, I’ve had to deal with (and subject my readers to) this nonsense. As anyone who actually READS the blog will know, I’ve put up with my fair share of trolls, bullies, bitches and backstabbers while in this country, and I had hoped I’d seen the last of it. 

Well, I think that’s about all I’m sorry for. I hope that the heartfelt nature of my sorrow shines through. I suggest that you go back to… well, I guess you probably call it a life, and let me spend my last few weeks in Latvia in peace. 

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, everything that’s wonderful is what I feel…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Expat, Humor, Humour, TEFL, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 197 Comments