My Time in Latvia (Part 3)

I made my way back to the hotel and waited for someone I knew to walk to the beach with.  Not knowing the language in a country that does not speak English is not safe, I learned the hard way.  I walked to the main street of the town through the woods and walked to the post office.  I wanted to buy stamps to send some letters home.  I paid for the stamps with American money and was followed by a man.  My only way back to the hotel was through the woods.  I did not know how to speak the language yet and could not ask anyone for help.  The phone booth took a card, which I did not know where to buy nor could I ask anyone.  I finally saw another Peace Corps volunteer.  He continued to follow us for a while and then gave up.  However no one speaking English forced us all to learn the language as quickly as possible.  I could speak fairly well within one month in country.

We stayed in Jurmala a week or two and then some left for Lithuania and Estonia.  Those serving in Latvia went to Ventspils for our training.  In Ventspils I was sent to live with a single woman about my age who lived above a knitting shop.  There was a small grocery store across the street and I could walk to the school where our training was held.  At first my host was frustrated that we could not communicate very well.  She spoke no English and my Latvian was not good.  I used a dictionary to point to words and gestures at first.  She brought over a friend Elmars who spoke fluent English if she had something important to tell me.  After  a few weeks we could speak to each other which made things much easier.  I taught her some English and she taught me a lot about Latvian culture and traditions.

June 21st is the biggest holiday of the year in Latvia, which is summer solstice or Janis (pronounced yawnee).  Indra took me to gather oak branches which we made into wreaths to be worn on our heads.  On the wreaths we put flowers from a garden.  On the evening of Janis we sat outside all wearing wreaths on our heads eating meat and cheese and drinking beer.  This traditionally is an all night event and young men jump over large bon fires.  People get two days off of work to celebrate.

Flowers are very important in Latvian culture.  I bought Indra some flowers from a farmer’s market and suddenly a news crew was following me all over town.

My Time in Latvia (part 2)

We spent 12 hours at the airport in Stockholm and then took a plane to Riga, the Capitol city.  The entire group of volunteers for the Baltics boarded a bus for our first destination, the beach resort town of Jurmala.  

We pulled up to a hotel located right on the beach.  The town of Jurmala consisted mostly of old homes left over from the era of Czars.  The beaches were beautiful with light colored sand reminiscent if the Caribbean.  The only thing missing were palm trees and buildings.  The only building on the beach was a stand for refreshments.

We began a week of training, learning useful phrases, an introduction to culture and getting to know each other.  I was excited to be on the beach.  At the he first opportunity I headed down the path that lead to the sea.  A man ran down the path ahead of me.  I didn’t pay much attention to it until at the end of the path he was standing there with his pants pulled down.

My time in Latvia (part 1)

In 1997 President Clinton sent me a letter inviting me to join the Peace Corps.  The Peace Corps is a volunteer organization sponsored by the federal government.  The application process took one year.  There were countless hoops to jump through, the application itself, medical exams, dental exams, essays to write and an interview.  I was originally told when I first called to find out how to apply that I should not even try as the application process was too competitive for the degree I had received in college.  The woman I spoke to on the phone was very discouraging.  Joining the Peace Corps was a life long dream of mine and after thinking it over I called again and requested an application.  I had tutored refugees in English a few years previous and that I think is what pushed my application forward.

When you join the Peace Corps you do not get to choose where you are sent.  They do ask for your preferences, but even those are vague.  I received a letter that I would be going to Latvia in Eastern Europe.  At that time not too many Americans had been to Latvia.  It was hard to find information.  The internet was not what it is today and I could find no language book except for a small one for travelers with important sentences in it.

In June my boyfriend drove me to the airport at 4 AM and I boarded a flight for Chicago.  In Chicago a large group of volunteers going over seas gathered for an introduction into the Peace Corps itself.  We spent a few days downtown at a large hotel.  I went exploring on my free time and some friends and I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner.  The food in Chicago is wonderful.  After the few days were up I boarded a plane for Stockholm, Sweden.





When I was diagnosed with Lupus

I was thrilled when I went to Facebook today and saw that Julian Lennon and Whoopi Goldberg are supporting the Lupus Foundation.  In the early 1990’s I was diagnosed with Lupus based on a medical test.  I was put on steroids which caused me to gain a huge amount of weight.  I also became stuck at my job because leaving my job at the time would have meant that I would lose my medical insurance.

Having medical insurance with this diagnosis was not easy either.  Everything that I saw a doctor for, the insurance company said it could have been caused by Lupus.  Having this diagnosis was making my life a nightmare.  Yet the only symptoms I seemed to have were swelling feet and ankles.  I stayed on the steroids for about 2 years.  Over the 2 years my weight continued to increase.  Since I myself worked in the medical field, I did research on the disease and what was being done to cure it.  Lupus is a disease that mostly affects women.  Because women are majority of patients suffering from Lupus, little money is spent on research.

I was laid off my job in the Spring of 1995.  That meant I lost my medical insurance.  I did not want to pay for the steroids out of pocket, so I decided to see what would happen if I no longer took them.  Nothing happened when I went off of them.  In fact, that is how I found out I do not have Lupus.  Although medical science has made great strides, tests still can come back false positive, mistakes can be made as people in the medical field are only human.  My life after receiving that diagnosis was put in a tail spin. It took a long time after receiving medical insurance again for the insurance companies to stop asking about Lupus and wanting to deny my claims.

I am glad there are people fighting for funds for research.  Just having the diagnosis is a nightmare and I can not imagine what it is like actually having that disease.  Thank you Julian Lennon and Whoopi Goldberg for your support of those that do.

Estate Records

Thanks to all for their feedback on my memoir.  I am hoping to have it finished by March.  I am currently looking for a publisher and failing that I will self publish.  I will be posting some of my publishing experiences as well here on my blog

Estate Records (Exerpt from my memoir #17)

The bus driver had pulled into a rest stop in the mountain range that luckily had a small store with food.  I spent most of the day reading a book I had bought before I left San Francisco.  The young man next to me kept falling asleep and trying to lean his head on my shoulder.  I kept pushing him off.  I would have asked to move seats, but the bus was full.  As one can expect the passengers on the bus were not happy about being stuck for three days.  Had our driver put chains on the bus, we would have been in Seattle already.  Every once in awhile I got off the bus to stretch my legs and get some food.


After three very long days we were able to get back on the road again. In Seattle I got off the bus and was excited to be back.  A man came up to me and said, “Did you see that poor woman who had to deal with the guy constantly trying to lay his head on her shoulder?  What a jerk!”  I replied, “Yeah, that was awful.”  Gina came and picked me up at the bus station.  I would stay with her for about a week.  That night we went to the airport to pick up Elizabeth, also returning from San Francisco.  She had lived in San Francisco at one time and told Gina and I about her ex boyfriend who use to beat her with a baseball bat.  I had never known this about her before.  She had married our friend Travis and always seemed happy go lucky.  One would never believe she could have suffered the kind of abuse she was telling us about and be so upbeat all of the time.  I was glad she was now with Travis, who was peaceful and kind.


I called Scotty a few days after I had been back.  I was nervous about speaking with him as he was angry with me that I left several months before.  He wanted to meet me to play some pool in Pioneer Square.  At first he acted aloof.  He was still angry at me.  He warmed up after a while and we were friends again.  I let him beat me at pool.  I was a better pool player than he, but I knew better than to slaughter his ego.  Over the next several weeks we saw each other and began dating again.



Scotty’s best friend Wally met us at the Comet Tavern.  We sat at one of the long tables and talked about music.  Their band Wally World had recorded several songs which Scotty had on a tape.  He and Wally began talking about how they should try to put a record out.  Wally agreed, and the conversation ended their.  I had heard this talk of putting a record out several times.  They talked about it, but did nothing towards actually having it done.  I thought maybe it was fear of failure holding them back.  It is a bit terrifying to go after what you want.  You might fail, or you might actually get it,  And then what?  I looked at the two of them sitting across the table from me.  “Why don’t you put out a record yourselves,” I suggested.  I told them I would help them figure out how to get such a thing done.  We sat and discussed how we might do such a thing and after a few hours Estate Records became a reality.

Estate Records (Exerpt from my memoir #16)

I stood in the doorway staring at him in shock.  I had not told very many people where I was living, which is why I was so surprised to see him.  After letting him inside he told me that he had done some digging and found out my address from someone I had written.  He was on vacation and wanted someone to show him around town.  I told him of my troubles finding work. We made a deal that I would show him all of the sites he wanted to see and he would buy my meals.  After talking for a while and catching up we walked out the door and up two blocks to Haight street.  I took him a couple of blocks down Haight to an Ethiopian restaurant where we had lunch.  The rest of the afternoon we walked up and down Haight street exploring all of the interesting shops.  The rest of the week we went to see L7 play live at a club nearby, we went dancing at a venue that played World Music, went to hole in the wall restaurants and ate fantastic food and explored San Francisco.  It was one of the best weeks I have ever had.  So I was extremely sad when he left to go back to Seattle.  

I kept up my job search and finally got a job at a bed and breakfast in Japan Town.  I enjoyed working the front desk and greeting the guests.  And just when it looked like things might work out for a while, my housemates said they were going to move so I would have to find a place.  I was drained of money by that time and even with a job, there was no way I could get a place on my own.  I decided to work until I had to be out of the flat.  The day i packed up my belongings to take a bus back to Seattle, my friend Elizabeth called to tell me she was in town and wanted to see me.  I told her i was on my way out the door to catch a bus back north.  We agreed to get together once we were both back in Seattle.  Some of Rhonda’s friends gave me a ride to the bus station and I boarded a Greyhound bus.


The bus ride back to Seattle was anything but smooth.  We had to change buses in Sacramento and in the bus station a man began to say sexually explicit things to me.  Some men noticed and one of them told him to leave me alone that he was my boyfriend.  He got rid of that guy, but he did not turn out to be much better.  I thanked him and after boarding the bus I took a seat by the window. He sat down in the seat next to me.  At first I did not think much of it.  The bus left the station and things went well until we were in the Siskiyou Mountains.  Our bus driver was an elderly man and he had not put chains on the bus and we were stuck in the snow on the mountain for 3 days.