Monday, 7 September 2009

To rescue or not to rescue that is the question.

Ian was doing his knght in shining armour bit this week - well what else do you have a truck and lots of time for, especially as he likes the word "semi-retired"? Okay it was not knight in shining armour, more like man in shiny red truck accompanied by his trusty companion for the day, our neighbour Bruce. A while ago I mentioned that we shouldn't succumb to white charger syndrome, the need to be seen as a rescuer or a knight in shining armour. I am not saying that we shouldn't help but our whole identity cannot be built on that and I still stand by that but being available to help when asked is important, we can get too busy to be of service to those who need a helping hand. The rescue entailed a two hour drive to collect another neighbour's white van that had broken down and also involved being stopped by the police but fortunately it was just a routine stop. Being stopped by the police can be a little entertaining here as they are usually just looking for someone who has been drinking, or driving without insurance, which is common enough, and it confuses the policemen that we have Latvian licenses and Latvian car but unfortunately still don't speak much Latvian so generally it means they just check documents and send us on our way without any hassle at all.

Just an update about the language. We are still struggling as we don't pick up the language quickly, it develops word by word and that is only occasionally. We have tried to see if any teachers of English would like to teach us Latvian, but so far have drawn a blank but since the schools have just gone back then there is still time. So pray we find someone soon.

We are working on trying to get equipment together to work on the land and that has meant trips here there and everywhere - well that is what it feels like at time and has usually meant Ian doing a lot of leg work as I have been a good girl and stayed at home to study. Our tractor apparently is on its way here from Italy and so should be on a truck..... somewhere.... en route, so who knows where it is at the moment, but at least should be here soon... well possibly! We have also been to look at some poly tunnels which have a wooden constructions. The wood we think is sourced here from Latvia from their own wood yard (if we understood correctly that is). We are working on the premise that wooden constructions are repairable and also they can be double lined which is a boon in this climate. Next challenge will be to get them ordered and at least one up before the winter then we can start veg off early next year. Once winter sets in there will be no chance of getting one until well into the spring, especially if we have as much snow as we did this last winter. It will be a race against time I think.

Today we intended to set off and purchase a wood stove so that we have some independent heat, as it was very very cold last year before they decided to put the communal heating on and there is no guarantee that they will even switch it on at all this year. We decided to check with our apartment manager first, to see what was happening about the heating and we found out we needed a piece of paper giving us permission to be able to install a wood stove in our flat, which is reasonable enough but hadn't been told before even though we had asked (boy oh boy mutter mutter). She wrote down in Latvian the permission that we needed and rang to find out where we got the paper from and we duly set off on a 45km trip to Madona. As it turned out it was more like a treasure hunt. We got to the fire station only to find no one there who spoke English but in German were told to come back later, so off we went for lunch. A little while later with the help of Google translate we were told we couldn't get the paper there we had to go to see the building inspector at the town hall. With the help of a very kind lady from the tourist information office we found the building inspector. He could speak some English, but told us we couldn't get the paper there for our area we had to go back to Ergli and we were given the name of a person to speak to, and when we got there.....? The office was closed and they only work Wednesday and Friday mornings. So no paper, no fire! Well not yet anyway. The hunt will continue for the elusive paper. Part of the problem here in Latvia is that some things are done illegally - sometimes out of ignorance of new laws and sometimes because it costs too much to do it legally for many, and then with the crisis lots of offices have shut and certain operations amalgamated so no one is really sure who does what now.

Well besides treasure hunts and rescue missions it has been gardening this week, bringing in the harvest. We now have about three quarters of the potatoes dug but it has been hard as it has rained quite a bit over the weekend and I was getting a little worried they may just rot in the ground but there was a bonus to a wet weekend - a husband at a loose end. Ian finally painted the outside kitchen wall, it is not quite the colour I wanted but it looks better than it did and freshens the place up so I am not complaining (can't complain too much I chose the colour, so don't know what happened there). I have also been trying to deal with the glut from the garden and trying my best to use up courgettes (zucchini) and green tomatoes and I am getting to the stage that if I see another courgette this year I think I will scream. Betty Crocker's zucchini bread is very useful for using up lots of courgettes, so thanks to my neighbour Kim for that recipe, and I added courgettes to the green tomato chutney thanks to Google for that recipe. I have also made green tomato mincemeat - no idea what it will taste like but it smelt wonderful and Christmassy - oh the wonders of google for recipes, next project is green tomato ketchup! Hmm????

On a more serious note the news is still not good here in Latvia. The winter looks like it is going to be a tough one and I have a great deal of respect for the women getting in their crops this year (allotment gardening is mainly a woman's job here), for them it makes a considerable difference to how well they do over winter, for us it more an inconvenience if we don't get everything in as we can still go to the supermarket and buy what we need to if necessary. One of the frightening statistics in the news is that 68% of people who are working have taken a cut in salary this year. It is hard to imagine what it is doing to people or how they feel, we hear snippets from time to time such as they wish someone like Sweden would come and take them over again, or they would like to go back to the certainties of Soviet times which is all a bit scary really. There are times that we wish we could sweep in here on a white horse and change everything but it won't help, we need to encourage, we need to be responsible with our purchases and above all we need to pray for wisdom as to what we should do under the circumstances.

(Photos: Our newly painted kitchen and the largest lettuce I have ever grown)

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