Take me out

dziva biblioteka_logo

It means ‘Human Library’ for those of you who aren’t as good at Latvian as me…

Over the last few years, a number of people have told me that I should write a book. However, due to an interesting turn of events, I’m not going to write a book but to be one. I’ve been asked to be part of Riga’s first Human Library.

‘What’s a human library?’, I hear you ask from the edge of your seat.

Basically, it’s the same concept as a real library, except instead of taking out books, you take out people. The idea is that visitors get to talk to (and learn from) people they wouldn’t normally meet over the course of their everyday lives, all in a bid to break stereotypes and reduce prejudice. Visitors can ‘borrow’ the participants for 15 to 30 minutes, listen to their stories, ask questions and then ‘put them back’ so the next person can borrow them.

The organiser of the Rigan Human Library sent me a message through Facebook a couple of weeks ago, asking me if I would be willing to take part. Having never heard of a human library before, I immediately fell in love with the idea. What a wonderful thing to be part of – opening people’s minds and promoting tolerance. I also immediately felt shy – would anybody actually be interested in talking to me? There would be no problems there, the organiser assured me. She had had requests to get ‘the blog lady’ there. Depending on how you read that sentence, it’s either very worrying or very flattering. I, however, decided to give more weight to ‘flattering’ and accepted the invitation.

Caught up in a mood of excitement and righteousness, I sent an email to a friend in Dublin, bubbling over about how my new-found ‘celebrity’ could help to heal the world, or at least Riga. He replied ‘Sounds like the ideal place for cyber stalkers and serial killers to find you…be careful…’ Not quite the response I was hoping for.

But, not one to scare easily, I met the organiser a couple of days later so she could give me some more information on what was involved. The event is taking place on the 25th of May in Galerija Riga from 1pm to 4pm (serial killers and stalkers take note). There are a wide variety of ‘books’ taking part – a Latvian-African girl called Lingita Lina Bopulu, representatives from ‘Mozaīka’, an organisation that represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, a Greek Catholic priest, a Paralympian, a recovering drug addict, a culinary artist, a politician, a street musician… and me, the token foreigner.

Surrounded by all of these interesting people and stories, I’m worried that nobody will want to talk to me and I’ll be left sitting in a corner with a drooping ‘Expat’ sign in my lap. My other fear is that people will ‘take me out’ just to shout at me. As a lot of Latvians pronounce ‘shout’ as ‘shoot’, I’d like to reiterate that I said ‘shout’ – this is meant to be an open dialogue, not target practice. Having said that, I’m now worried that people might take ‘take me out’ literally – a man was shot dead in a cinema here for eating popcorn too loudly, and I imagine I’m far more annoying than overly crunchy popcorn to a certain proportion of the population. Come to think of it, maybe ‘take me out’ wasn’t the best title for this post…

I had been thinking about writing this blog for about a year before I actually started writing it. To be honest, I was worried about how Latvian people would react. After all, these are the people I live, work and socialise with, so it’s quite important that we get along. Then winter hit hard and I needed something (free) to pass the time so I thought ‘sod it’ and started writing. I suppose I never really thought that anybody outside of my immediate family would ever read it. 4 months and almost 12,000 views later, I’ve realised that people other than my dearly devoted mother and father are paying attention.

Luckily for me, the Latvian reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Most people see some truth in what I’m saying, get my sense of humour, and have the grace to laugh at themselves and the habits that seem so strange from an outsider’s point of view.

Then, of course, there are the people who think that I’m patronising and condescending, attempting to disguise my superiority complex in so-called humour. They suggest that I should just go home or better yet, send me step-by-step instructions on how to kill myself. And people say Latvians aren’t helpful…

Whatever your opinion, I’m raising my head above my laptop parapet for one afternoon so come on down and say hello, listen to my story or give me a chance to hear yours. There will be lots of interesting people with lots of interesting tales to tell so open your mind, put your prejudices aside and spread the word.

Check out http://ej.uz/Dziva_Biblioteka for more information and put May 25th in your diary.  

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About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Humor, Tolerance, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Take me out

  1. Pingback: Lovely Latvia | Expat Eye on Latvia

  2. Laine says:

    I have been meaning to try to meet you when I am in Riga but, alas, I am not in there on that day. However, I am very sad you have missed (or haven’t reported on) queueing for the Song and Dance festival tickets (happens every 5 years). In any case, I sincerely hope you are in Latvia the first week of July this year as I am very much looking forwards to read your impressions on THAT event if you will care to post any 🙂
    I have lived away from Latvia for the last 10 years now, but I do recognize everything you are writing about… and it all makes perfect sense to me. Honest!
    All the very best and keep up with untangling the misteries of the living in Latvia.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’ll do my best! Gutted I missed the tickets going on sale for the Song Festival. If this video is anything to go by – http://www.dziesmusvetki.tv/ – it would be blog gold! Hopefully I can still pick up a ticket for something online! Glad you like the blog – you can be my new assistant, keeping me up to date on all of these exciting happenings! 😉

    • Expat Eye says:

      I managed to get tickets for the rehearsal of the grand finale concert – best I could do at this stage!

      • Laine says:

        The morning rehearsal? Or the evening one? Look out for the “Dziesmu svētku gājiens” 6/07 in the morning. And maybe send me an email as I am Riga THAT week. Being Latvian and singing in a choir etc etc. 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        It’s practically a national sport! Yes, the morning one. The evening one was sold out unfortunately! And the only other show available was 30Ls. I’m not that into Latvian Folk 😉

      • Laine says:

        Most events are for free, and so is the “gājiens” (procession?? ) of the participants. Morning rehearsal might be a bit “half ready” (tickets were sold only after massive protest regarding lack of tickets for the final concert) but maybe a good way for a foreigner to ease in into all this anyhow 🙂 Best wishes.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Half ready is my favourite kind when it comes to Latvian events 😉 Should be an experience anyway!

  3. I think it sounds like a fascinating idea! I’ve not heard of anything like it before.

  4. Pecora Nera says:

    Sorry about that… It seems that I have a stutter.

  5. Pecora Nera says:

    Have fun 🙂
    Which category will you be filed under?

  6. Pecora Nera says:

    Have fun. Which category will you be filed under??

  7. ieva says:

    Actually the guy who was shot in the cinema was not the one eating too loudly. The one eating too loudly was not satisfied that somebody asked whether he could eat his popcorn less loudly. So he took his gun out.

  8. “plastic dog peeing in the air, hooks up to car water”
    Now, you go and explain this search term/phrase to me. I dare you!!!
    Methinks it deserves the “week’s most baffling” award.
    We should get a competition going.

  9. 1WriteWay says:

    I bet you’ll be the most popular choice for take-out ;).
    Hope you have lots of fun and lots to blog about after!

  10. Told you – so popular! Oh girl, if we walked by that library, I’d totally check you out! (what? I thought that surely called for a pick-up line joke.)

    • Expat Eye says:

      And there was me thinking you were a happily married young woman – tut tut 😉 We’ll see how popular I am after it I guess!!

      • I would really appreciate some long-arm shots of you and your new friends. Please and thank you. Plus, it might encourage people if they knew they’d be featured….that’s how I guilt my friends into coming visit us abroad.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, good thinking! I’ll do my best to document the event through long-arm photography! Might just be lots of pictures of angry Latvians and me looking scared but they’ll be entertaining nevertheless!

  11. Marianne says:

    What a fascinating idea – I’m sure you will have such fun!

  12. pollyheath says:

    What a cool idea! I’m sure that your cyber-stalkers are totally lovely.

  13. Oh my, what excellent blog fodder that will be…! At least that’s what I’m hoping. You might want to write obituary, just in case….

    • Expat Eye says:

      Blog fodder indeed!! I have a couple of human shields lined up in case any snot rocketeers show up. Hoping that’s the worst I can expect. Really don’t want the follow-up to be posthumous!

      • It’ll all be totally fine. I wouldn’t have turned this down either!
        Just remember – don’t let them take you to the woods. ONLY in direction cake shop. And nothing can possibly go wrong.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Nothing could get me into the woods! I think I’m safe enough on that score! 😉 There are a few good cake shops in the area though – and an Irish bar in the shopping centre!

  14. Liga Krista says:

    oh, a pitty am not in Latvia that day, would have loved to meet you in person!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Would have loved to have met you too! You can send a few friends along in your place – they can give you all the gossip 😉

  15. Sounds interesting and makes me think that I should probably check if something similar is happening over here too. And don’t you worry, if the event is properly advertised, I’d say you definitely should not be left sitting alone with yourself for long or anything. Better make sure you have some water with you, could be you won’t be left on your “shelf” fro any time or something.
    Can’t wait to get some feedback after the Dziva Biblioteka

    • Expat Eye says:

      There will definitely be a follow-up post on this one!! I’m really excited about it. It started in Denmark but has taken place in loads of cities all over the world since. Canada even has a national ‘Human Library’ day! Should be interesting! 😉

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