Monday, 9 May 2011

I choose life

Yet another apology for taking my time on this, we had unexpected guests and then the internet was down, or rather our electric was off, but the promised photos are posted now. 

We are having glorious weather, almost too
glorious as even Ian says we need rain but
as you can see life is positively bursting out
The phrase "I choose life" has come to me a lot just lately, and it was interesting to see a guy called Martin Scott has been having similar thoughts too. It is not an avoidance of death, as that comes to us all, but a choice to live life while we still have breath in our bodies. So even though the world seems to be constantly teetering on the brink of disaster either from terrorists or economic terrorism "I choose life", I choose not to be afraid of the future but to embrace what is to come. I choose to hold tightly to a God who created me and this amazing earth around me, and choose to believe that he wants the best for all of us and for us to chose life too. I choose life so as not to be shackled or paralysed by fear. I also choose life when all around me fear for the future and say there is no hope in rural Latvia. It is easy to become despondent and worry about the future here in Latvia and to despair of there being a future at all. The first question we get asked nearly every time we first talk to someone is "Why are you here in Latvia?" Not in any purely curious way, although there is that as well, but more in the tone of "why on earth made you choose to come here? Should't you be anywhere else but here in this country? Anywhere is better than here?" sort of tone. So Latvia, "I choose life!"

The view from my chair 
I saw an interesting link today that may seem to have no connection with choosing life but it does. In the link they explain how they have given new life to some old gas lamps which possibly inspired C.S. Lewis's idea of having an old lamp covered in snow to greet Lucy as she entered the land of Narnia in 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.' It's an old technology, past its best, brought to life by the application of some new thinking and the addition of some new technologies the system now works better than before, with the added advantage of lasting longer than the new technologies often do with their built in obsolescence. I wonder how many other "old" technologies could be brought to life with the application of a bit of brain power and some modifications. This type of application would be great for a place like Latvia that still has many people with the skills to build the old type technologies but finding they are not wanted any longer as people want the new, but new is not always better in the long run. New street lighting is only supposed to last 30 years but the gorgeous old gas lamps are still working from Victorian times.

Some trees still are waiting to come into leaf but many are
now festooned in their spring green
Well on the road to choosing life in this country I am still wading through my course of "Managing Sustainable Rural Development", and the reason for doing that is because I believe there is a great deal of potential that is locked away and I would love to be a part of the unlocking of that potential. At times though, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information I seem to be accumulating. Not all of it is from my course but also the rabbit trails that lead from my studies. I am glad that summer is on the way and maybe I can start to process some of this information for use at a later date, rather than just accumulating it. I am counting down the assignments left to do before I start on next years Masters thesis. I have just got my results back from the last assignment I handed in and that was a good enough result to keep me on track. Quite pleased as it was a critical analysis and I hate critical analyses, I would rather work with what does work and I guess ignore, what doesn't, on paper at least. In two meetings I have been in I have noted what I consider weaknesses in the projects but without further investigations and probing I cannot find if the deficiencies are really there or I just didn't have all the data, hardly a proper critical analysis then. I think my main problem is knowing that there is more than one way to "do development," and it definitely depends on who is involved, the culture of the place where the development is happening and a whole host of other variables and consequently I find that sometimes it is hard to be really critical, after all it might have been the right approach but the wrong time, the right approach but the wrong people involved and a whole host of other reasons, including what side of the bed someone got up on that morning.

Dandelion time of the year
As I am finding out more and more, some things work and some don't and sometimes there is no really good reason why that should be. One of the rabbit trails took me to a Norwegian site called Ide Banken (The idea bank) and it states there:

"A better future cannot be brought about through down-to-earth realism alone. It can only grow out of the continuous contest between what people dare to dream of and the resistance that reality has to offer."

In other words things won't happen just because someone sits down and decides it will, but people have to dare to dream big enough for that to happen and fight against the inevitable set backs and problems and yet continue to dream. So I choose life and dare to dream that life will flow out with abundance in this place I live in.

Newts in our bottom pond
Daring to dream doesn't come about without disappointment and this week we were disappointed to find out that we still are not able to own the  the land we work. Apparently there is a three year extension on the original law and it means we can't own it until at least 2014. Why they can't just have a residency requirement which will prevent people coming and buying land without living here, I don't know, we have been here three years now. Denmark has a similar restriction on summer houses, you have to have lived there five years before you can buy one, fair enough! It is mainly so that Danes can still buy summer houses and not be all bought out by foreigners, particularly Germans who live so close. It is not those who move out to foreign lands to live, who necessarily push up prices, although I know it can be a problem, I also know a large influx of incomers can lead to tensions with locals but that is not likely to happen here; but those who do come in, can possibly breathe new life into stagnating rural locations, so there are some losses and some gains. The problem is that the law is to stop foreigners coming and taking advantage of the cheap price of land, but in reality the law does not stop big businesses buying up land because they set up a Latvian business and buy the land anyway. We are in some ways no different personally as we have the full rights to do what we want as we have power of attorney on the property yet the original owner still "owns" it. The difference though between us and a big company is that should we eventually profit from the land then the profit, as far as possible will remain here in Latvia. We also already invest into the area by trying, as much as possible, to buy locally, something big businesses don't tend to do.

A resident moving into their new home. Ian is very chuffed
that a pair have decided to nest in the box he has made
I am not sure why the Government are so concerned at selling off the land to foreigners anyway as they seem intent on selling off any other valuable assets that Latvia own in the name of privatisation, and the next thing that is on the cards is the sale of the government's share of the phone company Lattelecom, it is already part owned by a Swedish company so it looks like there is a possibility of yet more profits finding there way to Sweden. Well it was not so long ago that a petition was going around requesting signatures that supported a Swedish take over Latvia, but they don't seem to have noticed that is precisely what seems to be happening, not democratically but by corporate takeover, and if it isn't Sweden it is Germany, or America or ......., but not Latvia.

As you can see we are going for a more traditional shape
this year. 
Although it was disappointing to get news about the land we have been making progress in other areas. Our greenhouse is coming along nicely now, which is a good job as our cucumbers and tomatoes are making a bid to take over in our flat. We also had a surprise request from a neighbour who would love to raise chickens for meat, something we had wanted to do too, but just not had the time to get going on it. Anyway we had some plans and ideas from a magazine called the Home Farmer and our neighbours has a father who is retired and good at making things, so hopefully we can get together and start raising chickens for the freezer. I am really looking forward to raising some good quality chicken as chicken is a little anaemic here and not always in the supermarkets anyway. Definitely making greater strides to being able to provide more of our own food. I haven't bought any vegetables since early last year, just fruit and although the choice in the freezer and dried food is getting a little more limited as time goes by we are doing okay as the seeds are getting planted up now and we should be able to start supplementing with salads soon, especially as those rampant cucumbers are already starting to grow cucumbers in the pots on the windowsill.

We are not the only ones building new greenhouses, there
is a positive flurry of building, some of them are
rebuilding after collapsing under the snow but there are
also many new ones being built too.
You will be pleased to know there are no scary photos of me with a swollen eye this week, fortunately the second load of antibiotics with the steroids worked and I think the infection is cleared, but just waiting now for my vision to properly clear and all the swelling to go down, but the doctor did say it could take up to two weeks to go. It has kept me confined to the house though for most of the week, which was rather annoying as most days have been quite bright and warm but the wind got around my glasses and made my eye sore again. I ended up with some of Ian's more wrap around sunglasses which looked a little odd one day when the day was a bit gloomy, but I still couldn't spend long outside. At least by the weekend it was distinctly better and I could supervise Ian planting peas - lots and lots of peas. I have missed having peas in the freezer over the winter, so hopefully these should give us plenty for freezing. Must remember to take a watering can up to the other apartment next time we sow seeds though, I am not quite sure if the neighbours thought we were completely mad as we needed to water the peas in because the ground is so dry again, and the only thing we had to hand was a big bucket and lots of plastic bags, so we came up with the solution of putting the water in the bag, punched some small holes in the bag and started watering the peas. Not sure how long the neighbours had watched what we were doing or how much merriment it caused, but one neighbour took pity on us and went and filled his watering can to lend us and just indicated to put it back in his greenhouse when we had finished. They are lovely up there and very helpful, we call the guy who lent us the watering can Mr. Smile-a-lot because he and his wife always give us a big smile and cheery wave when they see us, maybe it is because we provide them with lots of merriment - hmmm, not sure now.


  1. Seems like things are progressing on the whole although sorry to hear about the land. I guess it's a difficult thing to decide how much outside help and intervention a country needs/wants and where to draw the line so that it still remains your country.

    Good news about your eye and also that you're nearing the end of your studies at least for the summer.

  2. Life in the margins! come on!

  3. Mavis, your quite right it is still our country and we do indeed feel very much at home.

    At least my studies next year will be my own research and not taught, I think I am nore than ready for that.

    Like it Ju, like it a lot.

  4. not sure where I stand on the land thing. I would hate swathes of England to be sold to foreigners....although I am sure it's happening anyway, but in that case I want to hang on to the ''little bits'' as long as we can....and then if it were to be improved by foreigners then that could be a good thing??? how's that for fence sitting??!!

  5. I think your quite right Karen, to be honest. I don't like the idea of big foreign owned companies moving in because the profits then just go elsewhere and the locals just get crummy jobs. For the more small scale enterprises I think it really depends on how committed people are to the area. Are they willing to join in? Are they willing to adapt to the culture of the area? That doesn't mean becoming totally British - whatever that means, or in my case totally Latvian but to learn to live with the people around me and accept them for who they are and become a part of the society. Newcomers can be a source of fresh ideas, they can also be an absolute nuisance.

  6. Hi Karen, I wrote a nice long comment in reply to yours and it would appear that Blogger unpublished your reply and lost mine.

    I agree with you that sometimes outsiders can be a good thing and sometimes its not. If the outsiders come in and take the profits elsewhere and leave the locals with crummy jobs or no jobs at all then that isn't good. If outsiders come in and participate in the local community and contribute resources ie time and money then it can be a very good thing. So you see I will join you on the fence.

  7. Joanna - excited to read about chicken! We've had four chicken in our backyard since last April - and raising chicken has been much more fun than we thought it would :) We're only keeping them for eggs, no plans of eating any just yet :)

  8. Here's a link to our chicken posts - all in Estonian, apologies:

  9. Glad you dropped by Pille. We used to have three hens when we lived in England and loved having them but then we used to also have a lovely butcher that delivered meat to us which included more than just pork. Nice though our local butcher is, pork to me gets a bit boring after a while and I long for a good chicken and not the anaemic looking ones we sometimes get in the local supermarkets. I want to buy or raise things locally than trooping off to the big town to get provisions. I think we will have some for eggs as well sometimes but then we have to think what to do with them over the winter.


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