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.

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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 (Exert from my memoir #7)

His twin sister Candace worked at the club.  Greg had received a degree in Social Work and was looking for a job.

Greg and I had been through an ordeal.  Earlier that year we were spending a quiet evening at his apartment watching television.  We were the only ones home and it was nice to just sit and relax.  We were sharing a bean bag chair and enjoying one of our favorite shows.  Sometime during the middle of the episode his roommate Dave came home and walked through the living room without saying anything.  Neither Greg nor I thought anything about it.  Dave was sometimes social, sometimes not.  After a short time Dave returned to the living room and stood over me.  When I looked up the end of a loaded gun was pointed at my head.  He told us he was going to kill us.  My first thought was that this could not really be happening.  I sat completely still hoping he would suddenly say it was a joke.  Greg had an alarmed look on his face which told me this was not a game.  He told Dave to kill him first because he did not want to see me die.  While Greg was being my hero, I did not want Dave to get agitated into actually harming either one of us.  I told Greg to be quiet and I began to talk to Dave in a quiet and calm tone of voice.  My instincts were to keep talking.  The gun continued to be pointed at my head.

Estate Records (Exert from my memoir #3)

As he spoke I noticed the tattoo on his shoulder that read, “I scream therefore I bleed.”  On his other arm was a tattoo of the sun.  I was curious as to why he chose those two items to be permanently placed on his arm, but forgot to ask as I was listening to him tell me he was going to be Peter Frampton or die.  I told him he had better be Peter Frampton.  

 

That is where he ended the story of his life.  He must have sensed that I was nervous.  I watched him get up and walk over to  my side of the table.  Bending down he gave me a kiss and returned to his side.  Stealing a move from a Woody Allen movie he then said something like, “there, now we got that out of the way.”  Reaching across the table he took my hand in his and held it there as we continued our conversation.  I no longer felt uncomfortable or awkward.  We sat at our table at the far end of the room until closing.  As I listened to him talk I stared into his eyes.  I wanted to see if he was genuine or not.  I could tell he was being his real self, but that maybe not everything he was saying was true.  Men who seem to have a lot of charm are usually compensating for something.  I wondered what insecurities he as covering up.  His mysteriousness kept me interested.  When the bar closed we stood outside saying good -bye.  He drew me into him with his hands.  My body melted as his lips touched mine.  

Estate Records (Exert from my memoir #2)

He stood up to make his way to the bar to get us drinks touching my shoulder as he passed by. A few minutes later a glass of cold beer was sitting in front of me.  We were not strangers.  I had met him a year before through Jay who I was dating at the time and we had run into each other occasionally.  One night he asked me out and at first I reluctantly agreed.  It made me uncomfortable that he was friends with my ex.  He assured me he had not seen him in over a year.  There was one thing Scotty was good at, making women feel important.  He had used this skill to get me to agree to go out with him.  He was charming, good looking and other women wanted to date him.  So the night he asked me out I gave him my phone number.  He called me as soon as I got home to make sure I had given him the correct number.  I wondered how much of his charm was an act and how much was real.  I decided not to care.

 

The room around us was filled with smoke from cheap cigarettes and the smell of cheap beer permeated everything.  That night I didn’t notice, all I saw was the man sitting in front of me telling me his life story.

Estate Records (Exert from my memoir)

I unzipped the black purse hanging on my shoulder.  My hand rummaged through wallet, combs, coins and keys until I found my lipstick. Taking the top off  I quickly ran the stick across my lips.  It was a first date and I wanted him to be interested.  When I walked into the room I saw him sitting alone at a small table.  He was ruggedly handsome with long curly blond hair which he wore pulled back into a ponytail.  I was nervous as always on a first date.  I wondered why he was interested in me.  I had met his previous girlfriend and there was no way I was anywhere near as beautiful as she.  Moving to Japan to pursue a career as a model, she was breathtakingly beautiful and a blonde.  I was a secretary in a medical office.  He had however been persistent in getting me to agree to go out with him.  So there I was, approaching the man still wearing his black leather jacket.  A smile spread across his face as he saw me walking towards the table..  Butterflies danced in my stomach.  As I approached the table he motioned for me to sit down.  

Community Outreach at Starbucks

On a rainy morning in San Bernardino, a group of California Highway Patrol Officers came to a local Starbucks to reach out and talk with the community.  Offering coffee to the cafe’s patrons, they introduced themselves to people and allowed them to voice their concerns or ask questions.

I spoke with Inland Division Public Information Officer Ramon Duran and his partner Steve Carapia.  Officer Duran told me that this is an ongoing project to build a relationship between the California Highway Patrol and the local community.  The coffee drinkers at Starbucks looked like they enjoyed meeting the officers and were eager to speak with them.

I asked officer Duran what types of problems they were seeing on the highways and local streets.  As one might expect drunk driving is an ongoing problem.  He also stated that they have seen an increase in motorists under the influence of marijuana.

It’s not every morning that one receives coffee from the California Highway Patrol, but the patrons at the Starbucks in San Bernardino were happy they were there on this unusually rainy morning.  You can follow them on their Facebook page