Check out Part 1 here!
Day 6 – Christmas Party
Since I’ve spent so much time in Latvia, I’ve made friends! My first trip was in April 2017 and I definitely started to get lonely. I didn’t realize until then how much I like my friends. Does that sound strange? Well, I knew I loved them, obviously, but I didn’t realize exactly how many texts, calls, and messages I got each day…until I was 8 hours ahead of my friends. I would wake up to like a hundred messages each morning, which my friends sent before they went to bed. And then it was silent during my day, because they were asleep! I would start getting messages again around 4pm Latvia time. But the mornings were definitely lonely because Margots is a teenager and enjoys sleeping in. 🙂
Anyway. The point is, since I’ve been there 4 times now, I’ve made some friends! Because this trip was busier than most for me, I decided to throw a party on Sunday so I could see everyone. A lot of host kids, orphanage workers, and some American friends were able to come and see us. I got to meet some new people and hug some people I already knew.
No pictures of this part due to Orphan Court regulations, sorry!
We provided a baked potato bar with taco style toppings (because why not do something American?) and a lot of my friends brought food, too. I got to try Latvian grey peas and bacon, which sounds weird but is actually delicious.
A lot of American host parents had sent gifts for their children. One host boy came by with his mentor. This boy was so nervous! God love him, he forgot how to speak English because he was so nervous. He just wanted to pick up his package and leave. After I talked to him for a few minutes and tried to make him feel comfortable, he decided to stay as long as he could. He wanted to talk and started sharing personal things with me. They ended up not being able to stay for too long, but I will never forget him and pray for him often.
There were many great moments and great people there. Shalonda did an amazing job coming up with games to play, and everyone joined in and had a great time. It was so loud in our apartment! She quickly learned how to relate to even the tiny kiddos who didn’t speak any English. Physical comedy is universal, apparently.
Latvian friends, you are a blessing. Love to all!
Day 7 – Apartment Hunting
Today I woke Margots up “early” (like 10am) and said, get dressed, we are going to a coffee shop. Bring your laptop. Everyone else has to stay here or go somewhere else. He said, okay.
Today’s job: get Margots into some type of stable living situation. We took a taxi to Miit coffee. I think it was a new experience for him, or at least not something he does commonly. We got some coffee and settled in to call various apartments to see if they were available. This was Margots’ first time apartment hunting, also, and he did a great job keeping calm on the phone and asked really great questions.
Eventually, we found a place. The landlord said we could come there at 5 and check it out. So we had a few hours! We took Margots to get a haircut (yep… every time).
Funny thing – Margots’ English is so good and his accent is minimal enough that he sounds native if you aren’t a native English speaker yourself. So we were just sitting in the barber shop waiting room, looking at some tattoo coffee table books, and everyone in the shop spoke English to him, even the lady who cut his hair. Eventually she asked him where he’s from, and he laughed and said, “I’m Latvian!” 🙂
After the barber, we went home and got a whole bunch of packages together to mail for American host families. We said hey to our family, ate some cake, and went back out to Origo. We did a little shopping, mailed some packages, and then got on (a very full) train to Jurmala to go see the apartment. This was a first for me… Latvian train. Pretty much like an American train. 🙂
We got to Jurmala and found the apartment building. The landlord came to let us in. He heard Margots and me speaking English and said, “Oh, you speak English? Me too!” I said, “Yeah, I speak English, I’m from America.” He said, “North or South America?” Margots laughed and I said, “The America. USA.” The landlord found this very impressive, but also felt I might be easy to take advantage of. It didn’t turn out that way, unfortunately for this enterprising gentleman.
We looked around the apartment, which is basic but also pretty clean (aside from a ridiculously nasty bathroom rug) and partially furnished. So we decided to take it. We paid the landlord a little bit, and he said to bring 90 euros tomorrow to finish paying the first month’s rent. We agreed upon a time to come back and said we would bring the money then.
So, the rest of our family just hung out at our Riga apartment all day. Margots’ girlfriend Linda had stayed the night after the party, and so she was there along with Arturs, Shalonda, and Verity. Verity was evidently a little stinker but it all worked out. Linda is amazing with her!
We had decided to meet up at “Big Lido” (the one on Krasta iela, for those of you who care) after our apartment hunting was complete. So Shalonda, being the epic lady she is, loaded up everyone into a taxi and made it there. Verity fell asleep in Linda’s arms, which was very sweet. ❤
Everyone was starving. Lido is a great restaurant serving Latvian food, buffet-style. You just take your tray around and get whatever looks good. I got Verity a big plate of fries (knowing she would eat that) and shared some chicken with her from my plate. Shalonda tried this super amazing fish with sauce and a tomato on top. We tried keifer drinks, which some of us liked and some of us didn’t.
After that, we took everyone ice skating! One of my rules is, I don’t skate. 🙂 I sat inside with all the shoes and bags and stuff. Shalonda skated for a few minutes and then joined me, leaving Verity with the three teens. Maybe that sounds crazy, but Verity has never been safer in her life than she is with those guys. She held two hands at all times. The teens took turns between helping her and skating. Linda even took a bunch of pics for me! Thanks Linda!
Leaving Lido was a little interesting. All of our phones were dying. Arturs’ phone was dead, my phone was at 5%, and Margots didn’t even have his phone with him. Linda took a bus back to her dorms, which was literally the only smooth part of this operation. There are so many of us that we have to take two cabs everywhere. I called one through Taxify, and we couldn’t find it anywhere. I mean, anywhere.
Taxify is awesome. It gives you a picture of your driver, the make and model of the car, and the license plate number. So it’s not that hard to find your taxi, usually. But this time, we couldn’t find it anywhere! Margots went up and down the row of cabs trying to find it, and eventually he did. Shew. We had Shalonda, Arturs, and Verity take that one, reason being that if anyone was going to get stuck somewhere with no phone or knowledge of how to get home, I didn’t want it to be them.
Just a little word here. Shalonda had never been out of the country before. Arturs is Latvian, but he doesn’t live in Riga and doesn’t really know how to get around (imagine if you grew up in the country, and someone dropped you in NYC – same deal). Verity is three. 🙂
So, if anyone was going to get stuck, it was going to be me and Margots. If worse came to worst, we would just walk like a million miles home. No biggie. We could do it if we had to.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. We had just enough battery to request another Taxify taxi and find it. Shew! We made it home! Everyone crashed immediately. Netflix. Always back to Netflix. We sure get our $10/month worth out of that service.
Day 8 – Moving Day
Today is our LAST DAY in Latvia, something Margots didn’t realize until the end of the day, somehow. 😦
In the morning, I woke everyone up at the buttcrack of dawn, as they say, to get out the door at 8:30am to catch a 9:20 train from Origo to Jurmala. Well, unsurprisingly, we missed our train. Also, I handed Margots my phone before hopping in a taxi with Arturs and Verity, and they pretended it was lost. They take every possible opportunity to tease me and I honestly can’t fault them for it.
So we got to Jurmala and the landlord tried to get extra money from me and sell us a TV. He was not happy when I stuck to our initial agreement, but so far so good, it all worked out.
We finished with the landlord and then went to a nearby store to buy some cleaning supplies, dishes, sheets, laundry detergent, toilet paper, stuff like that. Then we went back to the apartment and Shalonda did an amazing live video that just makes me so happy. You can see it here: Watch the live video here! It’s a bit of a slow start but I think it really gets everyone’s personalities.
After getting as much as possible done in the apartment, we went back to the train station, but we are slow so we missed the train and had to wait another 30 minutes.
But guys, the boys and Shalonda went ahead of me and Verity on the walk to the train station and she said, “Oh, I need run up there, there goes my family!”
Guys. None of those people are related to her by blood. Only by love.
That is exactly why we come on these trips… for love.
When we got to Riga, we stopped for dinner in a different Lido, the one in Origo, and then got to see another friend, Mareks. We did a little shopping and then he decided he would like to come to the Christmas Market with us, which was a blast! It was so fun getting to know him better. I can tell he has a heart of gold.
We also ran into my friend Donna at the Christmas Market, thereby affirming my ability to run into people I know in multiple countries. 🙂
The Christmas Market itself was amazing! It was super cold, but really fun to look in all the booths and see the handmade items for sale – elaborate candles, carvings, ornaments, and toys, along with honey and other food items. Everyone was friendly. A nice lady at a store even heard Verity say “Mommy, I want an apple!” and just gave her one for free.
And when we got back to our Riga apartment, everyone helped pack (except Verity, lol) and an American friend came over to give the boys some groceries – they were leaving from an adoption trip in the morning. I took a nap that night but really just spent time cleaning and packing before we left for the airport at 4-something-am.
Day 9 – Departure
I’m not going to say a whole lot about this part, because it’s hard! Maybe I’ll do a post on “leaving” at a later date, but for now, suffice it to say that not everyone cried, but almost. 😦 We got to the airport on time and basically just survived the trip home.
Verity got candy almost immediately 😉 and juice. She looked so cute! But goodness was she ever in a filthy mood. Well, none of us were happy.
We had a long layover in France again and bought some sandwiches and fruit to get us through it. They did extra security checks and Shalonda got stopped and searched thoroughly. They finally let us on the plane, and when we landed in Cincinnati, Verity was out cold and did not appreciate being woken up. Therefore, she sobbed through customs and 2 security points. We eventually got to our next gate and Shalonda did an amazing thing and brought us all dinner. ❤ Verity had been hoping for Chick-fil-a, and she got it.
Meanwhile, I had catnapped on the plane, but really I’d been awake for upwards of 48 hours by this point. Just one more flight to go. We boarded and Verity sat next to Shalonda, with me on Verity’s other side, separated by the aisle. We did this so Shalonda could have the window seat. She got some really nasty looks from some people who didn’t realize we were together.
Part of my unorthodox family. ❤ Love you guys!
Can I just say a brief word on racism?
Shalonda got stopped roughly 5 times by security. She got ugly looks from people when she was helping Verity with stuff. I never got that. I got special treatment because clearly I am a white mom with traveling experience and a young child. When people realized we were together, they would lay off her…but she shouldn’t need that to happen. She shouldn’t need the implicit “protection” of traveling with a white friend. She shouldn’t be viewed as a danger simply due to her appearance, which btw is completely nonthreatening. She’s one of the most cheerful, outgoing, sacrificial people I’ve ever met.
Back to the story… Justin was waiting for us when we landed in St. Louis! It was so nice to see him! He hasn’t featured much in this story, but really, if you’re looking for the ultimate supportive husband, that’s Justin. He got us from the airport, loaded us all into the van, and drove us home. ❤ Good guy. He’s a good one for sure.
And that’s a wrap for this trip!