Monday, 19 November 2012

Little by little

At least it isn't raining! The flags were out this week as
Sunday was Latvia's day of Independence. 94 years from
the first time they declared their independence from Russia
We don't get a huge amount of post. Not surprising really as we don't send a lot of letters either or order a huge amount, neither do we get much in the way of junk mail, but this week there was a surprise in our mailbox. A mysterious card. It wasn't one of our birthdays or our anniversary. It is still a bit early for a Christmas card, especially a local one, as there was no postal address on the card. It turned out to be a card with a picture of an alpaca on it. A local friend of ours had seen it whilst away and thought of us - very sweet. Even sweeter were the kind words inside. Always a lift to a week to receive some kind words!

I've been busy knitting too
I mentioned previously that I had had to send a request to Sheffield University for a transcript. A transcript for those who don't know and if you are as ancient as I am, is the results from the time spent at university, not just the final results but a breakdown of what you did whilst there. Well after they conducted their archaeological dig, they managed to find something to transcribe into a modern transcript. Okay I exaggerate, but it is still about 27 years ago since I was there. I was quite surprised to read them again, my chemistry was my redeeming feature in my results for my first year at 70%, the rest were all rather mediocre. I rediscovered that I had taken Anatomy and Cell Biology, Biochemistry, two lots of Chemistry for Biologists, Microbiology and Physiology. I had forgotten about Microbiology. I must have pulled myself up by the bootstraps in the end to get a 2:2 grade as my second year results didn't look that promising either. How did I manage?

Oh yes we still have mud!
One of the reasons for the transcript is that I need it to continue on with my studies at Tartu university and I am pleased to say that the authorities have accepted the transcript and I am good to go onto the next stage. I have even nearly finished the proposal I need to write to say what it is that I want to study. It just needs tidying up and a quick check over and I can send that off too. The weird thing is that I have really struggled to put it together. It is quite a step up from a taught Masters, where the course is pretty much organised for you. This time I have to convince someone that what I want to do is a worthy subject to study and I have to organise it, albeit with a mentor. I think part of me realises that this means a significant change over the next four years and in some ways it feels like jumping off a cliff, once over the top it is not so easy to get back, I'm committed (perhaps I should be but that's another story). I know I will be fine once I get going on it, but I have really had to lean into God to get to this stage. He has kept nudging me along to get me to where I am, to get me past the point of inertia. Oh well! Future here I come, now.

I have been busy! Honest!
I have also been doing some translating just lately. Not the proper sort of translation where I look at the text in a foreign language and try and work out what it means in English, but rendering google translate into something that makes sense in my native language. It is an interesting exercise, but I think I managed it. No complaints anyway. Latvian can be quite interesting when using google translate, as Latvians can be quite philosophical and that renders a direct translation into a rather amusing piece or otherwise downright unreadable. I gather it works both ways though.

You can just see the end of the pipe at the top
of the photo that Ian cleared.
I did manage a bit of time out on the land to do a bit of winter preparation. I have been reluctant to do too much as I don't want to wrap up the trees too early in the damp weather. I would rather it be colder before I do that. Instead I have cut down some small spruce trees (aka baby Christmas trees) to use around some of our tiny trees and to lay on top of herbs and bushes as protection from the heavy snow and browsing deer. I still want the temperature to drop some more before wrapping the trees up in layers of plastic again. Meanwhile Ian has continued on with the cable work. At least the rain has more or less held off, not been great weather, but at least not tipping it down with rain. We are getting closer and closer to getting sorted now, with the cable laid right up to the electric pole and a trench dug down to the greenhouse and a bit beyond for the barn. We even have the right forms filled in to get the power laid on. We are getting there, bit by bit. Ian was able to get on with the cable as the lake disappeared at at last. It might have had something to do with Ian going down into a culvert over the road and not on our land and clearing away a large stone and some debris from a pipe he found. We won't know if that was the problem until we either get a lot more rain or in the spring snowmelt.

A small sink hole, but a little worrying as we
have been finding a few of these close to our
temporary lake
One of the things I have learnt along the way in my studies is how things change when the voiceless find their voice, then you get a different kind of revolution. When mindsets start to change there comes a tipping point where people change from hopeless to those with at least a glimmer of hope that things might change. Of course when the powers in charge kick back there can be trouble, but sometimes they cannot contain what has changed, especially if people lose their fear. People here in Latvia still live in fear, fear of losing jobs, fear of losing heat, and a myriad of other things. People won't speak out openly about what they know for fear, but fear of what? Speaking out is not going to result in the secret police coming knocking at your door, but still the fear of something lingers on. Trying to change the mindset is hard, people might moan in whispers, but not openly and that is corrosive and allows those who take advantage to continue taking advantage. I long for Latvians to really find their voice and learn to speak out, not with pent up emotion, although that might have to happen, but with a clear sense of what is right and wrong, with a clear sense of something has got to change and they are going to speak out until it does.

This beats the trenches we dug a few years ago
to drain the area around the greenhouse whilst
in the process of being built. Still it brings us a
step nearer to getting the electric in
Something else I learnt along the way is the phrase
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." spoken by Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
I had the joy of reading this book as it was a set piece of my daughters' english GCSE. Such a great book for showing the human side of people in an age where being black was to be thought of as subhuman by some folks. The phrase works for many other situations though and I was impressed by one pastor and his youth pastor's attempt to understand being homeless Some might think it was a publicity stunt to pretend to be homeless for 10 days, to do it together is not the same though, as many do not have that choice, but at least they got out there and met the folks who are genuinely homeless to talk to them, to share with them and find out how to help. Maybe if all those who try to help in some ways get out there and listen they might understand better.

No snow and no rain, can't be all bad, even if it is a little dreich


  1. Good quote and so true. I sometimes say to HI that it would be good to swap brains for one day to find out how each of us deals with situations and how we feel!

  2. I think the thought of swapping brains with Ian for a day frightens me, I shudder to think what he thinks and feels sometimes. I bet at times it is completely different to me, somethings we are better not knowing. Hehe! He's lovely really! :oD

  3. Love your quote from to kill a mocking bird....that book is still studied here at GCSE level. As for google translate..Finnish is hilarious but I think that may have more to do with their complicated and quite beautiful language. I love their use of ii in words...

  4. Latvian in itself is not particularly complicated, it does handle grammar in a different way to English, which makes it difficult to pick up at times, but it doesn't have a huge vocabulary. I think the difficulty lies in the pictorial way the language is used.

    So I am intrigued as to why you were using Google translate to translate Finnish

  5. a Finnish friend whom insists on using facebook in Finnish!

  6. Well that explains a lot. You have a varied set of friends and relatives - always nice


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