I saw them following me around town, but could not figure out why. Finally someone who spoke English came up to me from the news crew and said they were amazed that I would follow a Latvian custom and wanted to document it as we were the first Americans to visit their town. They asked me a few questions and then continued to follow me back to the school where my training was held.
That evening I sat down to eat dinner and watch the news. All of a sudden there I was. For 30 minutes there was a story about me on television and I could not understand anything being said. The shots of me were mostly of me carrying the flowers for my housemate. News stories in Latvia and Russia at the time were not a few seconds like here. They were long and very in depth.
Among knitters there is a popular book called Latvian Knitting. It contains patterns to knit Latvian mittens. At the time I owned a copy and brought it with me. I bought yarn from the shop downstairs and knit a pair of wool mittens. Each province in Latvia has its own pattern. They are quite beautiful.
Grocery stores were quite a challenge at first. All items are on a huge shelf behind the counter. One must go up to the counter and ask for the item wanted. There is no looking beforehand and if you ask for it you had better buy it. The second challenge was asking the price and understanding the answer. People would roll their eyes and shake their heads as I tried to understand what was being said. I now have tremendous regard for those who come here unable to speak English. Learning a new language while attempting to live in a new culture is quite stressful. When I returned back home I went back to volunteering as and ESL tutor for refugees.
One day while in class for training, our supervisor came in and said I had a phone call from the American Consulate. I walked to the office, wondering who would be calling me and how did they know where I was. I picked up the phone and it was a man from my home town saying he had read an article about me in the newspaper and decided to get a hold of me while he was there. He said he was from the defense department and wanted to take me to dinner.