Monday, 16 November 2009

A quiet time

One of our  Latvian lessons was a little different this week as we had a little visitor. Our teacher brought her little son along as his dad wasn't at home. He is a bit shy of us, maybe his age but also possibly these strange folks who he doesn't understand. One little girl in Denmark, where we used to live, got very upset when I spoke in English and cried every time I saw her, other children, usually boys, just prattle on as if you understand everything they say as long as you nod in the right places. We don't have many toys for little ones, actually we don't have many toys at all but I do have a hobby horse that a certain someone bought me for Christmas so I could continue my riding lessons even though we were moving countries, hmmph! This hobby horse has a button in its ear that when you press it it makes a galloping noise, then a horse's neighing noise followed by a noise like it has just been shot, it provided endless amusement one Christmas and Rudolfs the little lad thought it was hilarious too. My years of children's work paid off though, out came a plastic picnic set of plates and cups, a wooden spoon and a bag of pegs and he played quite happily for awhile. He even contributed to the lesson occasionally by saying "ok" or laughing. Well I am glad he finds our Latvian funny!

Our front loader for our tractor has still not arrived so I had to go and practice reversing the tractor out of the tight place where it is parked in preparation for having to fill in for farmer Ian while he is away in Cyprus. I did okay and I am sure it would get easier with use but I can't say I enjoyed it knowing that I might have to get the tractor out while someone is waiting. I drive it very very slowly, they would have time for cup of tea by the time I get the tractor out. 

It has been ever so quiet around here since I took Ian to the airport, I haven't even had music on at all today, I don't think Ian can last a full 24 hours without music. I did go out to the Everglades though (our land remember?)  just to make sure everything was okay and since I am not really adept at using a chainsaw like Ian (come to think of it I don't think I have ever used it) I pottered around digging ditches instead, trying to drain the water from around the foundation blocks of the polytunnel, all the blocks are surrounded by what looks like miniature swimming pools. Not sure I was very successful but I was as happy as a kid at the seaside digging in the sand...... well mud.

Talking of things mechanical our selector went on our car again and so we had an unplanned trip into Riga to sort it out. Not happy! Even more unhappy when they said that Ian is not selecting gears gently enough and that is why it went! My dear husband is not the sort of person to thrash a car and to be honest I thought Mitsubishi trucks could stand a lot of hammer. I thought that is what they were designed for, to be rugged, and as far as I am aware the people who usually drive these kinds of vehicles will not be as gentle as my dear husband. So be warned! It had better last longer this time otherwise we will be in for a fight. I don't give in easily.

Latvia is a great place to live according to the Baltic Times and I have to agree with them. I thought the article was a fairly amusing piece that stated that Latvians moan a lot but the Brits have the edge, maybe that is why we get on so well. I don't think our criteria for what makes Latvia a great place to live is the same but it is interesting to read their choices, choir singing (one of these days I shall have to go along and actually listen to one of these choirs, they are very popular and more so since the crisis,  when the chips are down the Latvians sing), Grandma's pickles (well having never tried Grandma's pickles I can't really say), downhill skiing on any available hill (not tried the downhill skiing here and having been to Austria, France and Colorado skiing the slopes do look more like baby slopes), the coastline (stunning as you can see in the photo, quiet, empty white beaches and accessible too) and lastly the diversity of people (not sure on this one having lived in the UK, where diversity is more obvious). My top five reasons for living in Latvia in no particular order are the people, they are shy and sometimes take time to get to know but it is worth it as they are a generous people, having a cross country ski run at the top of the road is a boon, the quietness of the rural village we live in, the cleaness of the air and lastly the simplicity of the lifestyle. 

Living in Latvia it is hard to escape that this is a time of crisis, maybe it has eased for others but Latvians still have the long winter months to get through and so my thoughts often turn to what what might be. I don't believe God leaves us bereft but I don't think our comfort is also that important to him, he is in the business of transforming this planet and though we can't always see what he is doing, I believe he has a plan and is not shocked by what is going on. And so what have my musings and prayers lead me to? Well I believe structural rearrangements will continue, some people think that business will get back to normal now the worse of the crisis is over, well it might for awhile but for how long, I am not so sure. I also believe that structures are going to be rearranged and by some very surprising sources, rather like some beavers who decided to do a little rearranging of their own in the heart of Riga the capital of Latvia as they felled a couple of trees one outside the opera house. About four weeks ago a major branch was broken off an oak tree on the Everglades, at the time Ian felt that something had been released and something restructured. I know God likes to work out of insignificant places and using surprising choices in which to do it, I mean who else would have thought of using a cross to bring redemption to this world in an insignificant out of the way nation if it wasn't for a God who cares enough to do something about our situation personally and delights in using the seemingly insignificant to shame the wise. I believe there are going to be some rearrangements structurally in some big institutions of this world and I think we can look for further signs of this happening around the world in the natural first. I look forward to seeing some how God is going to work through this period. Big changes can seem frightening but if you look at the big changes that happened 20 years ago as communism fell, it is surprising what small acts can build into some surprisingly big changes and surprisingly rapidly too.

As well as looking forwards sometimes it is good to look back and I loved this report about a missionary,  Brother Flackwho is retired now but at over 100+ has this to say - "Go as a learner. Be prepared to learn from the national people and from the culture of the country. Do not try to make the churches like the one in your own country. Do everything you can to develop indigenous growth. Do not be masters; be servants. Identify in every way you can with the people God puts you among. You are there to establish self-supporting; self-governing and self-propagating churches." Isn't that what Jesus set out to do 2000 years ago? Refreshingly simple if we would only follow the Master's plan!

I have been enjoying my courses and over time I have found out some very interesting facts but this week I was completely staggered by what I found out. Apparently it took 100 years from discovering that asbestos was dangerous to it actually being banned. Considering the awfulness of the consequences of coming into contact with asbestos it would seem down right criminal to have known about a risk for so long and not done anything about it. You can read the report ( large file 1.7Mb) for yourselves if you wish and it also covers some other surprising facts such as the fact that Monsanto (company behind GM crops) ignored the danger of PCBs (a mixture of synthetic organic chemicals used in electrical wiring) for so long even though their own workers were falling ill while manufacturing it. Question is will we learn?

1,2 and 3 are from a Latvian holiday in 2002 when we actually toured around a little instead of staying in the camps for the whole of our trip. As you can see the beaches are wonderful.

Photo 4, shows the rather grey day we had today, I had planned to go and take some photos of our village to show you but it was too miserable until the last few minutes before dusk. 

Photos 5, 6 and 7 are the last few minutes as the sun was setting and dipped below the cloud line which lit up the trees as if they were covered with fairy lights, very pretty. 


  1. Didn't know that about asbestos. We still treat patients that have mesothelioma (cancer caused by exposure to asbestos) and it always has to be reported to the authorities, because they are entitled to compensation. Shame it was around so long, otherwise these people would not be in the position they are.

  2. I know that is what is so awful. Just yesterday there was a report that suggested there was a link between certain plastics and the effects on the behaviour of young boys making them more feminine and the guy from the plastics association was advocating a wait for better proof logic. What are we condemning these young boys too? What is going to be the long term effects on them? Will it be another case like asbestos where we condemn people to an awful existence through disease while we wait?

  3. It saddens me to learn that about asbestos. Like Ian, I am a Geordie (now living in Somerset) and have a number of friends who have died from cancer due to asbestos that was used in the shipyards of Tyneside.

    Thinking also of what you say about the financial situation and how some people seem to think we can just go back to the way things were amazes me. Someone once said that if we don't learn from the mistakes of history then we are doomed to repeat the consequences.

    On a lighter note, I did have a cheeky smile visualising the man waiting for you to reverse the tractor maybe playing with the hobby horse to pass the time while he was waiting. Sorry!

  4. It is indeed sad and in some ways beyond belief that such things can and do carry on.We do desperately need to learn from the past, the good things as well as the bad.

    Now what a brilliant idea, pack the hobby horse when I go out to keep the mechanic amused.

  5. Maybe we should co-author a ditch diigging blog. I could think of a rude title for it but won't share it here. Ah, the joys of land redemption in Latvia.

  6. Lol it is rather wet isn't it.

  7. I really enjoyed the quote from Brother Flack. It was, in fact, the focus of a theological reflection I have just written; a reflection concerning the missional lifestyle of a certain odd-ball, but extremely welcoming couple in Ergli.

    Seeing all these pictures of snow over the last few weeks has made me miss Latvia.No summer camp, no winter camp. I'm tempted to take a long weekend in Riga over my Christmas break, just to do some reading!

  8. A certain odd ball couple? Now who would that be? :P You know where we are if you miss Latvia too much, although at the moment it is wet, wet, wet


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