My friend Erin and I met the man from the defense department at a cafe in Riga’s Old Town in an area where ex-pats hang out. He told us he was there as a consultant. Latvia had not been an independent country since the 1920’s and at that time there were lots of consultants and volunteers in Latvia as the country tried to rebuild itself. After enjoying a nice meal and hearing the latest news about my home town, Erin and I boarded a train back to Valmiera.
One of the most memorable events of my time in Eastern Europe was the opera festival. A group of Peace Corps volunteers traveled by bus to a nearby town where there were castle ruins largely intact. During the day, performers sang from a stage built among the ruins of the castle. We sat on a large green lawn eating a meal picnic style and listened to the beautiful music. When evening fell the stage and surrounding areas were lit by candle light, giving it a medieval look and feel. Singing is a huge part of Latvian culture and the opera festival is one of the main events.
Although we were overseas we continued to celebrate US holidays. For the 4th of July the Ambassador from the United States invited the Peace Corps volunteers in Latvia to his 4th of July party.