this is a shopping center that reminds me a bit of a huge American flea market....it is almost kiosk style inside. shops sell odd couplings of things..for example, tshirts and faucets for your bathroom?!?! Mostly, though, it is shoes and clothing for all ages. The also sold super souped up strollers--pram style--with gigantic tires to navigate the snow, i guess?
Dima and Aija at the Daugavpils University...Daugavpils' buildings seem to be of two sorts or architectural styles. The "little London" as this one and the "USSR" one, such as the apartment buildings in photo 1.
Jet lag attacked me this morning, rendering me unable to move until after 11. Luckily everyone else was being lazy too! We had not stopped for three days and I was whipped. Fed the children some Special K bars, courtesy of Publix, and then headed out of the hotel, with the usual sprint through the murky smoke filled lobby. I am thankful, though, that the odor of smoke does not permeate the rooms.
We met up with Aija, a psychologist that works for the city and deals with many different orphaned children. She has been a fabulous asset to both me and the children, advocating for them with the courts and helping them prepare mentally for a new life in the States. She is truly a kind soul and has spent many hours of her own time assisting our family.
SO, activity of the day was BOWLING, chosen by Dima, who bowls with passion. haha The bowling alley is reminiscent of a cross between a US bowling alley and a early 80's roller rink. Think disco balls and cheesy American "easy rock" songs and pop, combined with a FULL bar and smoking lounge (unconstrained by windows, of course) and you have the Latvian bowling alley. My fellow New Orleanians would love this place and perhaps never leave. I have no idea who won each round, but it was a fun time.
Aija then escorted us to a section of town behind the university, which, incidentally was much more picturesque than the other pics above. WE passed some beautiful, well tended gardens full of Southern US plants, which amuses me to no end and more cobblestoned roads, which reminded me of walking in New Orleans due to the uneven nature of the stones. We never would have found this place and if we had, we would have never dared to go in, because it did not look like an eating establishment. Descending the old stone stairwell into a dimly lit basement like room made one feel as if the were entering a secret club...there was a sign, of course, but since we do't read LAtvian or Russian, we felt very much like we were entering a Latvian hideout. The place reminded me of some place in the deep South because it was full of dead animals. Moose heads, some animal with no English translation that appeared much like a badger, varieties of deer I had never seen, beavers, etc. I could not help thinking that my dad would certainly like to meet the owner of this place and perhaps shoot a moose or two together. The menu was expansive and had things you will never see in America...like 35 ways to cook tongue. Yes, tongue. I passed on that one and had a very good curry instead.
We have been instructed by the courts to ask the children what they want their official names to be. Natalija is officially Natalija, but she prefers the nickname "Natasha." Dima is officially "Dmitrijs" but he prefers the nickname to the given name. This is a weird thing for all of us because they already HAVE names. Apparently many families prefer American names for their kids and think it would be easier socially for them to have such. However, our kids seem to like their names and have no desire to change them. With Aija's help, we have all decided to work on an American MIDDLE name. If they ever decide they like the other name better, they can always switch.
Please, send your thought on names bc they have not yet liked any.
In many ways I have noticed the differences between our society and Latvian society. One cannot help but compare what you know with what is foreign. But today, I will focus on the similarities.......In the town square, teenage boys and younger men gathered to oogle freshly painted slick racecars. Conversation surely were about engines and stereo systems. A woman, bent with age, spoke patient Latvian to a pigtailed little girl pushing a miniature grocery cart in the market, never once minding if the child took too long or stopped to browse. Girls dressed in their coolest clothes snuck looks at the boys seated aside them and giggled, hoping for attention and a tiny little blond girl of about four put on her best pouting performance when her parents apparently told her "NO!"
Am I noticing this more or is the frequency simply increasing......We are noticed here, even though I put on skinny jeans today!! haha Not only are we noticed, but we are watched closely, scrutinized by passerby. An old couple on a bench today whispered furtively as we strolled by, chatting with the children. Their heads whipped around as if on a swivel, eyes following us as we walked off. Natalija and I browsed the drug store yesterday, chatting about various products, when one teenage girl grabbed her friend's arm, and not to subtlety hissed something in Latvian that included the word "AMERICANNNNNNN" while pointing to both of us. The checkout lady at the Ditton Nams (grocery) refuses to speak to me, but instead, her huge blue eyes examine me, questioningly, every time we go in for something. This scene repeats itself with each outing. Are American's that rarely seen here or are they wondering if we are stealing two Latvian children? I have no idea. We smile sweetly and move on........