I suppose I should do the obligatory summer post. It doesn’t matter how long I live here, I will always continue to be amazed by the intensity of the short-lived Latvian summer. It’s three months of shining beauty that surface from the eon of cold and darkness, which is the norm. Everything grows, flowers and fruits at an incredible pace and you find yourself frantic with the activity of trying to “do it all” in such a short space of time. Not just the earthy activities of planting, mowing, weeding, harvesting, picking fruits, making preserves etc – but you also find yourself running from one summer activity to the other: parties, concerts, barbeques, visiting friends at the beach, visiting friends in the country. Suffice it to say that the summer passes in a blink of an eye, which is certainly what it’s done this year.
This year has also been different for us because I've been committed to working 2 days a week in Riga, and Jem's had to work full time – so we haven’t been able to secret ourselves in the country for long stretches of time. Every week we have made the trip back to the big, smelly smoke, to shove the kids in overpriced daycare for 2 days while we work. Then we pack up the car and race back to the country as quick as we can. Jem then continues his working week in Saldus, while the boys and I hang out at Kūgures. These fractured weeks combined with the Mexico trip in July, the best month of Latvian summer, means that I am feeling a bit ripped off - like we haven’t really had a full summer at all. School and kindy start in a little over a week, and I am definitely not ready to descend into the rainy, cold, Riga-bound lifestyle once again.
We haven’t undertaken any big summer projects this year – Jem built a second storey on the boy’s cubby house in June, and now it has magically morphed into a robot pirate ship. The mowing was done by a paid helper, much to my chagrin, so I haven’t managed to tower above the beautiful overgrown fields in the red, flower-munching monster like last year. Although after the rolling incident last summer, maybe that’s a good thing… In spring I planted a modest garden in a new, much better location, and have enjoyed a few green peas and sunflowers and dill although I did very little weeding or watering.
Big news for me this week is that we bought a steam juice extractor, and our neighbour, Grisha, brought over 7 fruit boxes of ripe plums, and I have been steaming those plums for the last three days and bottling litres and litres of juice. I am determined to bottle as much fresh apple and plum juice as I can – with the vain hope that this year we don’t have to buy any more of the crap juices they are selling in Rimi – which are horridly expensive and mostly just water and sugar anyway. The poor boys have been subjected to drinking my healthy brews over the last few days, and although they have both made valiant attempts at supporting my efforts, I know that they are secretly hankering for the nicely tetra-packed “Cido” juice they are used to.
There are big changes coming up for all of us come September 1 – Tiss is starting grade one (they start school aged 7 here), while Mikus is starting a new kindergarten. After years on the waiting list, Mikus finally got a place in a state kindy right near our house. Although everyone tells me it’s one of the best state kindergartens in Riga, with great teachers, resources etc, I am nervous about changing over systems for Mikus and will see how he goes in the first few weeks or so. Suffice it to say I’m not going to leave him there for eight hours a day like most kids, but will take him home after lunch – after all, he’s only four, and I still want to spend time with him at home! Luckily my job is part-time, and I can arrange the work hours to suit childcare arrangements and school commitments. I am similarly nervous about Tiss starting the Latvian schooling system: about expectations of behavior, the level of language he’ll need, the amount of work he’ll be doing… but I figure that all this nervousness is more about me than about my kids. I just need to get used to the Latvian system, and “roll with it” a bit more. I'm sure the kids will adjust with flying colours.
So next post will definitely be about the first of September – a hugely celebrated day every year, when ALL of the teaching institutions begin work again – kindergartens, primary schools, high schools, technical colleges and universities. Doesn’t matter if the 1st of September is on a Friday, or a Wednesday – the school year starts smack bang on the 1st. Not a day earlier, not a day later. Of course, you don’t do any work on the 1st. Schools basically put on a celebratory something, and the kids come dressed in all their finery (yes, the suit dilemma again), along with armfuls of flowers for their teachers, stay for a couple of hours and then go out with family and/or friends to celebrate the start of the school year. So stay tuned! Underneath a few photos of us hanging out in the country today...
Tiss has a new obsession... after seeing most of the Harry Potter movies (thanks, Larisa!). So the last few days at Kūgures have been all about wands and broomsticks and potions made from mixtures of grass, dirt, berries, and a dash of dad's beer...
This basketful was my juice-making challenge for the day
This is what Jem is doing right now - jamming with a friend who is visiting from Germany. I think in this pic they are both singing like Jim Morrison...
Here's an amazing thing that happened this summer! My grandmother turned 99! She is an absolute legend - tactful, gorgeous, sharp as a tack. This is one of her b'day portraits :)