Sunday, 28 September 2008

Feeling more at home

On Wednesday the flat (apartment) we have just bought was finally cleared. The last resident in the flat was an old man who had died around two years earlier and a lot of his old furniture was left in it. It was an amazing thing to watch the clearing out. A tractor called round to take away the rubbish but before he took anything the neighbours all streamed through the house taking away things that they wanted, and one guy took things down to a workshop that he ran, where he renovated furniture. It was a real communal effort. The flat and the basement was left as tidy as it could possibly be and the two women worked well into the evening to achieve that, even cleaning out the ash can of the wood stove. 

One amusing note from the day was the tractor driver who turned up in the morning while we were in the flat with our friends who will be living in it. He was quite insistent that we understand what he said and all I could understand were the words "traktor" - obviously tractor and "mebeles" which is a similar word to the word in Danish for furniture. We called over two young boys but they had not a clue what the driver was on about, so we trouped down to a local shop (which we discovered was a tractor supplies place and we thought was just another part of the technical college) and they didn't understand English at all. Finally we called our friendly translator and she talked to him and we got to the bottom of the problem of who he was, he was from the local rubbish company (garbage disposal). The next was to ring the lady we had bought the flat from and find out what was going on. She had booked the company to come and clear out but she was only going to be there at two o'clock and it was only 12 o'clock. Confused? We were too!

The process of buying a flat in Latvia is a little less clear cut in the period between signing and getting the land book and official ownership as we found out and it has been a slow transfer but it went through in the end and was quite an enjoyable process. We found out the lady
 who owned the flat has lost many relatives in Ērgļi and so she doesn't want to live there any more and she lives near her daughter in Cēsis. Her daughter who did some translating and had a baby in the middle of the process of purchasing the property works for the Ministry of 
Agriculture in the Organic Farming sector. We would love to own some land and make it work here and that just seemed such a good connection. Her daughter also introduced us to the neighbours and we found out that one lady is a Christian who goes to the Catholic church and she made apple cake, some sandwiches and coffee for everyone and made us feel very welcome. We were shown the grounds by two of the guys so we know exactly where our friends can do some gardening and then we went to look at the apple tree or rather apple trees! I thought we were being shown two apple trees like in the garden area but no, it was a whole row of apple trees. As our friends return to England this next week to prepare for their move in 
March we will have the use of the apple trees, so now we have to rapidly find ways to store the apples for around 6 apple trees. Recipes anyone!

We moved a double bed into the flat and a futon and some chairs, just enough to make things comfortable so they could get a feel for living in the flat. Ian got a chance to light the stove - a job he has always enjoyed in England and Denmark, it is the hidden pyromaniac side of him. (It could get confusing next year our new friends are Kathleen and Ian and it gets confusing as to which Ian to shout for, they need nicknames I think). The new flat is a thick walled building and with the wood heat it was overly warm, compared to our flat which resembles an icebox at times (still no communal heat). We found out that a travelling shop visits the flats on Thursday mornings and the next door neighbour, with a look of glee on her face, was busy telling the lady on the van that we only spoke English and didn't speak any Latvian, the poor lady in the van put her hand to her mouth in a sort of horrified manner in case we tried to make her speak English but we all laughed and with a bit of signing and a little Latvian I managed to ask for 6 tomatoes and I knew enough Latvian to make it clear it was not 6 Kilos I wanted. 

On Friday we had a knock on our door, it was the house manager and the young lady from one of the flats downstairs to help translate. A half Latvian, half English conversation then ensued and eventually I understood that the house manager wanted to know if we wanted some manure for the garden. We had seen the farmer out delivering manure and wondered how we could get some, so were really grateful that our house manager remembered a previous conversation through our friend who does much of our translating. It shows that our neighbours are really taking care of us and helping us to settle down as much as possible and for that we are really grateful. 

Sunday we took a visit to an arboretum to see a collection of trees with Kathleen and Ian, it is definitely the best time of the year to visit somewhere like that, it was gorgeous. We had phoned ahead to let them know we were coming and the lady was waiting for us with a lovely smile. She only spoke a few words of English and some German but I don't think my German is up to a tour around a tree garden even if some of it has been coming back since coming here. She showed us the information room and we picked up some leaflets and she gave us all an umbrella each and we started off around the garden, and she talked to us in a bit of English, German and Latvian and we understood some of it, helps we knew a few of the Latin names between us and some of the trees had English labels. After a short while a young lady, her mother and grandmother turned up that our guide obviously knew well and the young lady then started to translate. We were joined by even more people who all seemed to know each other and we had a very enjoyable tour, we were even given a free tree to take home with us. 
At the end of the tour we were invited in for a cup of tea and we sat and chatted for quite a while and we were told about some Latvian superstitions and we found out a little about the young lady and the fact she had been in England working on a strawberry farm quite nearby to us and then another year on an asparagus farm and they asked questions about us. During our conversation we found out that the young lady also worked for the Ministry of Agriculture - coincidence? I don't think so! That has been two women who were a joy to talk to and a passion to see this land become productive that we have met this week, and I would love to see where that will lead.

This post is a little early this week as tomorrow we are taking Kathleen and Ian to see our new friends Roger and Valerie, who moved to Latvia in May, we met them for the first time earlier on this month. They are of a similar age and they are both coming from England (Kathleen is American but is now an honorary Brit, she even gets our jokes and sometimes is even ahead of us) and both couples feel that God wants them here in Latvia but are not sure for what reason, I think they are going to have a lot in common. We will stay overnight there and take Kathleen and Ian to the airport on Tuesday and I know they are going to miss their new home while they get ready to move.

We had an increased offer on our house in England this week which is promising and I have had contact with the Open University and I am now in the process of signing on to study Development: Context and Practice which I hope will then lead to doing the Masters eventually in Development Management. My heart is to use what money we have and develop projects that will impact the community but I need to get a better understanding of how development works and so I thought I would at least try one of the units on the course and see how it goes, if I enjoy it and it proves useful then I can carry on to do the Masters, and maybe even that Doctorate. 

To finish off I hope you have enjoyed the pictures around Ērgļi of the autumn. As we are driving round I can feel my heart lifting in wonder and praise for the gorgeous colours I see. I hope autumn is always like this in Latvia, as I love this time of year with the colours that radiate even on a gloomy day.


  1. What beautiful colors! It's always nice to see pictures of your surroundings and read about your journey.


  2. The colours are getting better and better, some are going the most gorgeous orange and red on the same tree. I will have to post some more in my next blog.

    Thanks for travelling with me on my journey, maybe one day you will come and visit us.


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