On​ ​the​ ​4th​ ​of​ ​July​ ​a​ ​group​ ​of​ ​Peace​ ​Corps​ ​volunteers​ ​boarded​ ​a​ ​bus​ ​to​ ​head​ ​to​ ​the 
Ambassador’s​ ​party.​ ​​ ​We​ ​arrived​ ​at​ ​a​ ​large​ ​estate​ ​in​ ​the​ ​woods​ ​just​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​Riga.​ ​​ ​The 
festivities​ ​were​ ​held​ ​outside​ ​on​ ​the​ ​grounds​ ​of​ ​the​ ​estate.​ ​​ ​Large​ ​groups​ ​of​ ​people​ ​were​ ​gathered and​ ​one​ ​could​ ​hear​ ​both​ ​English​ ​and​ ​Latvian​ ​being​ ​spoken.​ ​​ ​I​ ​ran​ ​into​ ​the​ ​Ambassador’s​ ​wife whom​ ​I​ ​had​ ​met​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​of​ ​times​ ​before.​ ​​ ​She​ ​volunteered​ ​at​ ​a​ ​British​ ​organization​ ​in​ ​downtown Riga​ ​where​ ​I​ ​often​ ​went​ ​to​ ​borrow​ ​novels​ ​in​ ​English​ ​for​ ​my​ ​advanced​ ​students.​ ​​ ​At​ ​that​ ​time​ ​I had​ ​them​ ​reading​ ​John​ ​Steinbeck. 
 
A​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​American​ ​corporations​ ​were​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​get​ ​their​ ​foot​ ​in​ ​the​ ​door​ ​as​ ​Latvia​ ​was​ ​learning how​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​capitalist​ ​country.​ ​​ ​The​ ​fourth​ ​of​ ​July​ ​party​ ​was​ ​being​ ​sponsored​ ​by​ ​3M​ ​and​ ​they were​ ​giving​ ​out​ ​swag,​ ​which​ ​turned​ ​out​ ​to​ ​be​ ​helpful​ ​as​ ​paper​ ​products​ ​were​ ​not​ ​always​ ​easy​ ​to come​ ​by.​ ​​ ​The​ ​food​ ​was​ ​American​ ​style​ ​which​ ​was​ ​definitely​ ​a​ ​treat.​ ​​ ​I​ ​never​ ​thought​ ​I​ ​would​ ​be homesick​ ​for​ ​American​ ​food,​ ​but​ ​we​ ​all​ ​enjoyed​ ​something​ ​that​ ​was​ ​American​ ​in​ ​the​ ​middle​ ​of everything​ ​that​ ​was​ ​so​ ​foreign. 
 
 Across​ ​from​ ​my​ ​apartment​ ​in​ ​Valmiera​ ​was​ ​a​ ​small​ ​grocery​ ​store.​ ​​ ​Every​ ​day​ ​I​ ​went​ ​in​ ​to​ ​buy something​ ​to​ ​eat​ ​and​ ​every​ ​day​ ​I​ ​would​ ​smile​ ​and​ ​in​ ​Latvian​ ​I​ ​would​ ​say​ ​good​ ​afternoon.​ ​​ ​He would​ ​just​ ​look​ ​at​ ​me​ ​and​ ​say​ ​nothing.​ ​​ ​I​ ​was​ ​not​ ​sure​ ​why.​ ​I​ ​did​ ​not​ ​know​ ​if​ ​he​ ​was​ ​just​ ​quiet​ ​or being​ ​rude.​ ​​ ​I​ ​continued​ ​this​ ​routine​ ​the​ ​entire​ ​time​ ​I​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​Valmiera.​ ​​ ​I​ ​was​ ​moving​ ​to​ ​Ugale​ ​on the​ ​other​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​country​ ​to​ ​begin​ ​my​ ​job​ ​as​ ​a​ ​high​ ​school​ ​English​ ​teacher.​ ​​ ​On​ ​my​ ​last​ ​day in​ ​Valmiera​ ​I​ ​walked​ ​into​ ​the​ ​store​ ​and​ ​to​ ​my​ ​surprise​ ​the​ ​owner​ ​greeted​ ​me​ ​with,​ ​“good afternoon,”​ ​and​ ​a​ ​smile.​ ​​ ​I​ ​smiled​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​grin​ ​and​ ​said​ ​the​ ​same. 
 
With​ ​all​ ​of​ ​my​ ​belongings​ ​in​ ​hand​ ​I​ ​boarded​ ​a​ ​train​ ​and​ ​headed​ ​to​ ​Ugale,​ ​a​ ​town​ ​of​ ​about​ ​200 people​ ​on​ ​the​ ​western​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​country​ ​not​ ​too​ ​far​ ​from​ ​the​ ​port​ ​of​ ​Ventspils.​ ​​ ​My​ ​host​ ​family greeted​ ​me​ ​at​ ​the​ ​train​ ​station​ ​and​ ​drove​ ​me​ ​a​ ​short​ ​way​ ​to​ ​their​ ​home.​ ​​ ​I​ ​was​ ​surprised​ ​they had​ ​a​ ​car​ ​as​ ​at​ ​that​ ​time​ ​a​ ​car​ ​was​ ​quite​ ​a​ ​luxury.​ ​​ ​We​ ​sat​ ​down​ ​to​ ​the​ ​table​ ​for​ ​dinner.​ ​​ ​They​ ​had invited​ ​the​ ​other​ ​English​ ​teacher​ ​from​ ​the​ ​school​ ​where​ ​I​ ​would​ ​be​ ​teaching​ ​to​ ​sit​ ​with​ ​us​ ​for​ ​the meal.​ ​​ ​The​ ​meal​ ​consisted​ ​of​ ​meat,​ ​potatoes,​ ​carrots​ ​and​ ​a​ ​salad​ ​with​ ​creme.​ ​​ ​My​ ​host​ ​family’s youngest​ ​boy​ ​came​ ​up​ ​to​ ​me​ ​after​ ​dinner.​ ​​ ​​ ​He​ ​could​ ​not​ ​speak​ ​English​ ​and​ ​took​ ​me​ ​by​ ​the hand​ ​and​ ​led​ ​me​ ​into​ ​the​ ​kitchen.​ ​​ ​He​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​show​ ​me​ ​what​ ​we​ ​had​ ​eaten​ ​for​ ​dinner.​ ​​ ​On​ ​the floor​ ​was​ ​an​ ​animal​ ​skin. 
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