Monday, 2 December 2013

Oooh the excitement!

The train station in Tartu. I have spent many a Tuesday
morning here. The toilets are good! Actually the station
itself has been beautifully done out and retained many
old wooden beams.
Forgot to mention that last week one of my neighbours was on the bus too and we haven't actually seen each other for a while, explains a lot when she is off to Riga all the time and I'm off to Estonia. Anyway we had a lovely chat for a few hours. This week the bus was really quiet, I wondered if the storm yesterday had scared them all off, it certainly wasn't as full as last week, when there was numerous people having to stand. I even managed to get off at the right stop this time, by telling the driver which stop it was I wanted and adding "ludzu," instead of just asking for the next stop like last time (it was in Latvian though, honest!). Despite the storm in the night, the day dawned bright and clear. Unfortunately the bit of snow we had yesterday made for treacherous pathways, but so far I haven't taken a tumble. It was an interesting morning this morning, as I had a slightly frantic phone call from one of my travelling companions whilst I was waiting for them to appear in their car for the second leg of the trip. Something was wrong and our driver was not where he should be! Oh!Oh! Someone else was sent to pick me up, so I wasn't left out in the cold. I was taken to where my travelling companions work - which turned out to be quite nearby and we waited. It turned out that our driver was appearing in a publicity film for the company and even though it was scheduled for the next day, the film crew turned up this morning instead. Fortunately we set off in enough time and we arrived with 15 minutes to spare.
A little bit of freedom, the chicks have
been let out into the greenhouse, from
their arks

The hospital. Ian has added gates onto the pen we built
last year, as it has its first resident. One of our sheep
has not thrived and was laid down on its side last week.
It was quite weak and Ian had to carry it up to the
greenhouse. Our friend, who has raised many sheep
came to give it an injection of vitamins and it will
be wormed next week. Although it has recovered, I'm not
sure if it will be kept all winter, we need them for breeding
and since it hasn't grown well, it might not be good to keep.
That wasn't the only excitement this week, the Prime Minister of Latvia has gone. A man who took on the premiership at the beginning of the economic crisis back in 2009 and was re-elected despite the austerity he and his government imposed. He resigned to take political responsibility for the collapse of the supermarket, since his Government were responsible for cutting jobs in the department for oversight of constructions and, despite the fact that many consider he is generally a man of integrity, corruption still occurs in government departments and hasn't been wiped out under his long - by Latvian standards - tenure. Interesting times indeed, but that wasn't the end of it. I had been surprised by the lack of comments coming out about those who headed the corporations involved, such as the supermarket, developers and construction company and finally Gintaras Jasinskas, chairman of Maxima Latvia (the supermarket), sparked anger by saying: "It is those who feel guilty who resign," commenting on the Prime Ministers resignation, this was swiftly followed by the shareholders of the Lithuanian owned company sacking him for his insensitive comments. 
Behind bars in the hospital

Icy roads
To add to the excitement I took my first lectures at a university this week. In the first I was talking about impressions from different countries we had lived in and at one stage I talked about England of course. I asked the students for their own impressions and one student said we had weird food and when asked what weird food in particular, he said "fish and chips." How is fish and chips weird? Sigh! Overall the lecture didn't go to badly, but I got really tired towards the end and had to cut the last section short or risk repeating myself or getting lost in what I was trying to say. My fiercest critic, my hubby even said I did quite well, that was a relief. One problem though was that I thought it was a two hour lecture, but at the last minute I was told it was actually 3 hours - too short a time to organise some activities to spin it out. I must admit though I did not want it to go on much longer as the roads were pretty icy on the way in, even if I wasn't driving since my dear hubby did, I still didn't fancy a late icy trip back home. Happily the roads had improved on the way back, as the temperatures went up enough and I think they put some grit down.

Ian chopping sticks to start a fire
The second lecture was for the course I am on, where I am learning about higher education teaching. The lecture was not exactly accessed for a mark, but it was necessary to complete in order to pass the course. By contrast this was a mini-lecture of 15 minutes and was supposed to give a flavour of what we would do in a teaching situation and get some feedback from our fellow students. I used an activity where all the students had to hold hands in a circle and then tie themselves up in a knot, I then had three volunteer "experts" come and unravel them. I timed this at 1 minute and 22 seconds. The next task was to do the same exercise without the experts and the task took 15 seconds. This was an activity one of the speakers organised at the summer school in Peyresq (France) and I felt it sent a powerful message to the young experts attending the course, that local knowledge is sometimes more effective. The students that I taught the exercise to also noted that the people were not waiting around for the experts to get them out of the mess, they cooperated with each other to solve the problem. My point was not that experts were irrelevant and no one fortunately took it that way, but they did understand very well that a motivated group of people can be quite adept at sorting out their own problems. I went on to talk about how experts and locals can work together and in an ideal situation is how participatory development works - and that neatly encapsulated what I would teach on. I got some very positive feedback and one or two helpful suggestions for improvements and things to look out for when or if I do ever get to teach again. The students enjoyed the activity that much, that they even suggested that it would be okay to do earlier in a course and not wait until everyone knew each other - must admit I would have been uncomfortable with that. I was uncomfortable with doing the activity myself in Peyresq after a few days of getting to know the other students, but felt it was worth it because it made the point so well.
Freedom might not be all its cracked up
to be though. These are our excess chicks
who have joined the bigger ones out in
the field, where they can free range.

Ian wants a camel and a llama now. To think he was a bit
unsure about having animals at all, apart from cats a
couple of years ago. Now he is developing quite an
affinity with them.
Oh yes! And there's more! What more excitement can there be in one week? Besides the will it, won't it appear comet? It is now declared dead, by the way, in case you missed that piece of information, although it did briefly reappear. No that isn't the news I was going to tell you about, it is the news about the Latvian Camels and Camelid Association. Last year we took my parents on a visit to a camelid farm, partly because we wanted to visit the farm ourselves, as they had alpacas too (alpacas, llamas, camels, vicunas and guanacos are all camelids, just in case you are wondering). In our defence, at least my parents did get a day out and about and not just to the camelid farm. We had been going to phone the farm to visit and talk alpacas, but Ian's had a cold and we were waiting for that to clear, when I got an email from them. What I didn't realise at the time was the trouble they took to get our email address.

One of the ladies who runs the camelid farm (Rakši) remembered our visit last year, but all she could remember was where we lived and we had alpacas. She was talking to a friend of hers who has moved out to our village and she asked if she knew of us, she didn't, but she said, "I will ask my friend." That friend happened to be one of our neighbours who knows we have alpacas and has our email address. The lady from Rakši said it was as if our email address dropped down from heaven - that made us smile. So thanks to a wonderful load of coincidences, we were sat in the first meeting of the Latvian Camels and Camelid Association. As far as the Association is concerned there are only four places in the whole of Latvia that keeps alpacas, ours being one of them, one is quite huge though with over 60, but the others are not so huge. So for the whole afternoon, we talked camelids and ate some great food and then talked some more, all made possible by the fact a friend of ours was also willing to put our animals away for us, allowing us to stay for a good long chat.
The various animals are all concentrating on a dog that is
chasing a stick in the enclosure. This was an exercise to
show how a herd of camelids will react and chase him off.
Not quite sure how ours would react. Sometimes wonder if
they would just keep on eating
Outside the train station in Riga
And just to finish off, we have another snippet of information. While we were away at the association meeting we had a visit to our land to assess if we can get the internet there and it appears we can. Of course it will cost to put up a dish, but at least it is possible. Now what to do about the home line? Hmmm!
Will someone tell this sheep it is not an mountain goat.
They do like to climb though!

Easting the hay stack

Frost on the wire

We're not going out in that!


  1. You take some lovely pics. Love the frost on the wire and the sheep 'king of the castle' :-)

  2. Glad you like the photos Liz. I can't claim all of them though, Ian takes quite a few and it is a combined effort. He took the sheep 'king of the castle' one and I took the frost on the wire. I liked the curly wire with all the frosty bits sticking out :)


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