Arrival in Moscow

Change is hard, and doing it alone takes some courage, but I am here in Moscow. I had a teary goodbye to Cody a few days before I left as he returned to Riga and then mom and Jess the morning of my flight. I have many mantras I keep in my head that have gotten me through different stages of this process already, and they are working wonders. It is amazing what positive self-talk will do.

The morning of my flight began with breakfast out with the family as it always does. Jess and Maruis brought me some Nuvrei pastries for the trip and my belly was full of goodness. I wanted to get to the airport early because of the Delta issues so in Portland mom came in with me and helped me with my bags. I was lucky she did because the line was unbelievably long and the flight was delayed so she helped shlep my bags and then joined me for a beer and shopping to help pass the time.

I hopped on the plane a few hours after arriving to PDX. One movie (Concussion- which I recommend) one book (Courage for Beginners- which I also recommend) and a few hours of sleep I landed in Amsterdam 30 minutes before my flight was supposed to take off.  After some stress and high quality sprinting I arrived at SVO with high spirits and no bags which was to be expected I suppose, given the Delta situation. I was greeted at the airport by a lovely colleague and after waiting for another new staff member we were off. It was daylight and the outskirts were breezing by as I tried to get a glimpse of all I could.

My first impression is that it looked a lot like any other city with freeways, malls, tall apartment buildings and such. Although I intended to study the Cyrillic alphabet more this summer, it didn’t happen and many words went undetected, although there were some familiar businesses out there I could make out.

We arrived at the apartment complex I will call home for the next  year or so, and it was huge. There are 9 entrance doors along an expansive narrow building. Each section has 9 floors with two apartments off of each floor. Many of our school teachers live here as well as other people too. I dropped off my things and was whisked away to my acting directors apartment a few entrances down. When I walked in, I got a taste of the kind, generous, and cheerful staff I will be working with. There was beer, champagne, water and amazing home-cooked food for us to dig into. The jet lag was setting in, so after a while, I headed back to my apartment. I was able to unpack my one bag, move some furniture around and get some shut eye.

The following morning we took a stroll around the neighborhood with all of the new hires living in our complex. The area is wonderful and it was especially nice since the weather was so agreeable, sunny and about 80 degrees. We were taken by some grocery stores, restaurants, and the metro. It is a really convenient location and there are so many amenities around. By far it will be the easiest and best location I have lived in since moving overseas..

Entering the metro station I got a sense of how huge the city is. There were people everywhere, hustling to get on the trains that conveniently run every 2 minutes. The escalator down is unlike any you have ever seen, narrow and deep. I learned that they were bunkers in the past and it completely made sense. We hopped on the metro green line and headed to Red Square while taking in the tiled artwork and statues. I got my first lucky rub on one of the statues (I chose the dogs snout over the gun) and climbed into the sunshine.

When you step out of the metro in downtown Moscow, you are greeted by amazing buildings all around. I saw the Bolshoi Theater from afar and we ventured into Red Square. As we entered through the colorful gates I was giddy and filled with goosebumps at the excitement of seeing St. Basils Cathedral for the first time. It was spectacular. The shapes, patterns and colors are magnificent and so pleasing to the eye. Such a wonderful intro to this great city. I am excited for what is to come!

The Vatican

So, I love the new Pope. I am totally pro-Pope and all of his ideas on poverty, climate change, capitalism and so on. I was excited to head to the Vatican for the day and experience it. The afternoon was the perfect time to visit the museum and the church. Everywhere we looked it was beautiful and filled with amazing history. I really felt like I was visiting a special place while I was there and it is an experience I won’t forget.

Walking Tour of Rome

After heading to the Colosseum we walked all around the ruins and parks around the area and got to learn more about the history of Rome. The weather cooperated and the sun was a welcome change to the already dark Riga days. People were out strolling, shopping and touring the city right along with us. To be in the middle of these ancient structures was amazing.


Rome in October

Well, it is better late than never, but I am sitting on the couch with bronchitis again looking through photos and realized that I have not posted since November. Where has the year gone? Things have been up and down this year, but with the sun out and me stuck inside I wanted to share some of the great moments.

In October Dutch came to visit us and we headed to Italy. Venice was beautiful and Rome was amazing. Seeing the Colosseum for the first time, taking a walking tour of the city and some great food were a few of the highlights. It was amazing to lear about the history of the gladiators and see it in real life. I found all if it fascinating.

Canals of Venice

After the train, we stepped out of the station and was welcomed by the grand canal and a miraculous view of the city. It was dusk and the sky was magnificent. I had traveled to Venice before and I got the same amazed feeling the second time as I looked around. The canals and alleys continued to amaze me as we walked around for three days and here are some of the best shots of the water butting up against the buildings, while life continues, including some construction workers.

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October Holiday… Getting to Venice

Rome by flight and 2 hours later, Venice by train… that is how our Italy holiday with Dutch started. We showed up in the city of canals in the dark, eventually found our Air BnB after some tech difficulty, and called it a night after about 12 hours of travel. Of course we had to get some pizza first, but after a pie and calzone, we all headed to bed to prepare our big first day.

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Latvian Countryside with Dutch

We are so happy to have Dutch visiting us for two weeks. The very day he got here, we jumped in the car and headed to a cabin for the weekend. It was just perfect. The fall crisp air was wonderful, the castle in Cesis was magnificent, as always, and the cabin was great (except for the 972 black flies in the house.) Over the weekend visited an outdoor art shop, had lunch at our favorite place in Cesis, and walked around the town. Then we headed back, started a fire, cooked dinner and hunkered in. We spent the daylight hours by the lake waiting for the hot tub to heat up. I don’t think it ever got “hot” but Cody and Dutch braved the cold air and sat outside under the stars for a couple of hours. It was a great weekend!

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First Outing on Rhodes

After Athens we headed to Rhodes, a Greek island close to Turkey. We arrived to our hotel, The Ixian Grand, after a short taxi drive and discovered that it was not only beautiful, but right on the water with spectacular views, especially at sunset. You could look right across the water and see Turkey.

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For our many days there we spent time going between laying by the pool with books in our hands and heading out on day excursions. Cody and I rented bicycles and also did a few afternoons exploring the local town 5 minutes away. It was completely relaxing and just what we all needed to get our minds off of the real world.

One of the first day trips we took was to the larger city of Rodos. It was a hot day, but it was wonderful to walk around the old fortress walkways and see the castles and hidden secrets of this ancient stronghold. The city is a must see and has lots to offer in terms of sightseeing. We loved just exploring by foot and seeing where alleyways would take us. It is really amazing the history that Europe has compared to the US and it is hard to think how new our country is in the grand scheme of things.

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Athens Greece with Cathy and Rick

A few days after Cathy and Rick arrived we headed to Athens to start our Greek adventure. We stayed at a great AirBnB in a great location. The home was in walking distance of great local food, markets, Mexican food and the Parthenon. Well, I guess the last is debatable, but yes, we walked everywhere, including many km up and down hills to the Parthenon. Good thing we all had some sturdy walking shoes, which came in handy not only for comfort but to dodge the rubbish all over the street.

The first day out we explored the city and found some great little shops and got our bearings. It was fun to just walk and explore the city while catching up and chatting. We were shocked how dirty and run down the city was, but then you have to remember that in addition to the financial crisis, the city is freakin’ ancient.


The next day we did it up big, starting with a delicious breakfast of burritos and margaritas. Then to an antiques market and a snack of halloumi and tzatziki. Our table was on the roof overlooking an archaeological site and it was amazing to see the process of excavation, although no one was working at the time, probably due to the crazy heat. IMG_2283 IMG_2291 IMG_2292 IMG_2294

Next, we headed to the Parthenon through the park and up the hill. It was a long way, but completely worth it as I have never seen something so epic before. It rivaled Anchor Wat but with the dry landscape, it seemed so grand where in Cambodia, the jungle makes it seem cozy and secretive. It was really spectacular and I am so appreciative that I got to see Athens up close and in person. IMG_2295 IMG_2298 IMG_2301 IMG_2305 IMG_2307 IMG_2314 IMG_2323 IMG_2331 IMG_2333 IMG_2340 IMG_2341 IMG_2342

Visitors Galore

One of my closest friends from high school came to visit us recently. Sam and I have been long, long friends and it has been great seeing him in Riga. Unfortunately he was here for the last two weeks of school so it was a really busy time for us. We got to take him around a bit and he has been trying to see the sights on his own.

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His visit has also overlapped with Cody’s parents. It has been 7 years in the making getting them to our house but finally the time was right and it has been just awesome. They arrived the day after school ended and it has been non-stop fun since picking them up from the airport. We have been eating and drinking ourselves all over Riga, playing games, taking some road trips and all the while, trying to stay out of the rain they brought from Oregon.
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Tomorrow we are off to Greece, but Latvia has been a great first stop. Yesterday we traveled to Cesis to visit the castle and then headed up to the Valmiermuiza brewery. The country side is beautiful right now and we took advantage of the slight break in rain. After that we headed downtown to Cody’s favorite restaurant, Folkklubs Ala, for dinner and some drinks and then headed back with friends to play Saboteur, a card game we picked up here. It really has been a wonderful start to the summer!2015-06-22 14.41.32 2015-06-22 14.39.06

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Riga Craft Fair

Last weekend Cody and I headed for the Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum to spend some time in nature and see some handicrafts made by locals. I had never been to the museum but it is in a huge park situated right next to a lake. The walk through the dust and the forrest with crafts every we looked reminded me a bit of the Oregon Country Fair. Actually, the more time we spend in Latvia, the more we realize that Latvia is very similar to Oregon. There were wood crafts, weaving, wicker work, ceramics and much, much more. We found a place to get some food and found our favorite local brewery, Labietes. With our beers and shashlik, we sat by the lake and hung out in the sunshine. We bought some gifts for friends and family back home and headed out after a few hours there. It was truly a Latvian experience.

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Riga Marathon Race Weekend

Festival season started on the weekend of the Riga Marathon. I grabbed my girlfriends and we went out thrift shopping for the day. Somehow we ended up at a city park with music, food, crafts and beer. The weather has finally gotten warm and it was one of the first sunny warmish days. At the festival we decided we had to pick up some flower headbands for the race and Mikyla and Rebecca had to try them out.

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Race morning stated with rain and clouds but Cody and I laced up the trainers and headed out to meet some friends. I was doing the 5K with some friends and Cody did the 10K. I had wanted to run the 10 with Cody, but I have been dealing with an annoying knee injury so I didn’t want to push it. I saw Cody off and then headed over to try to see him on the bridge. Instead of seeing Cody, I saw a students sister instead! IMG_2025 IMG_2026 IMG_2027 IMG_2028

The ladies and I met for our race start, pulled up our hoods and headed out. One of the friends I was running with was a race virgin and did great. I ran/walked with her and it was so much fun. Along the race route there were some bands, choirs and people cheering us on. I loved the high-fives from the ladies in the traditional Latvian dresses. It was really uplifting at the end of the race. 20150517_132252 IMG_2031 IMG_2032 IMG_2033 IMG_2036 IMG_2037 IMG_2038

At the end of the race we decided to get dry in our favorite pub, Folkklubs Ala. Our friends met us there and we ordered the party platter complete with pickles, traditional garlic bread, pickled herring, smoked meats, cheese and veggies. It was perfect for a post race meal. It was a great weekend to start the summer season off. IMG_2039 IMG_2041 IMG_2042

Scotland with New Friends

So in April Cody headed out with Micah and Paul, his old high school friends, and I decided to head to Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. I was lucky enough to have three friends who also love last minute plans, so we bought tickets and a week later we were hiking and biking in the beautiful national park. Cal, Shaun and Mikyla were wonderful traveling partners and I hope that over the course of our time in Latvia, we get to do it again.

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Blog Hibernation is Over

Hello friends and family. Cody and I have come out of our winter slumber alive and well. Yes it was difficult, and yes it is supposed to snow tomorrow but at least we have some light. We can’t seem to find the rays of sun, but at least it is light when we leave and arrive home from work.

Since our winter slumber we have had lots of amazing adventures and interesting times in Latvia. Spring break is tomorrow and Cody and I are off on separate adventures. He is meeting some high school friends in Croatia for a road trip and I am heading to Scotland with three really cool co-workers for some hiking, pubs and fish and chips. Before we pick up the blog full swing, I wanted to share some highlights from our hiatus.

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October Road Trip Day 1: Kaunas, Lithuania

With October break coming up and our trusty new Volvo purchased, we decided to take a road trip. We had one week and endless possibilities… what the hell… Auschwitz! Cody decided on a route with some stops along the way and we were off. Car packed, snacks in the back, map in the front and at 4:30, vroom, vroom. Pulling out of the parking lot from work the weather was chilly and clear with a few hours of daylight left.

After a quick three hour drive through the flat forests of trees dropping their colored leaves and we had arrived at our first destination, Kaunas, Lithuania, the second largest city in this Baltic state. We were tired and hungry but so excited. Kaunas is a cute little river town that is pretty easy to spend a few days in. We checked into the nice Kaunas City Hotel and headed for the window to see our view. Not only did we have a balcony, but we were right over the main walkway through the center of the city. Pretty great!


Cody found us a great italian restaurant Piccola Italia, actually the best restaurant rated on Tripadvisor and it did not let us down. The place was packed but after 1/2 a drink at the bar, we had ourselves a table. I ordered some cheese-less pizza and Cody had some risotto. It was delicious and it was fairly authentic; they even had limoncello and sambuca on their dessert menu. We had a leisurely dinner and headed back to the hotel to have an early night.


After an adequate hotel breakfast I convinced Cody to lace up his running shoes and head out to see the city by foot. He found us a running route and we were off, through the city, in search of Kaunas Castle. We found some graffiti, a skatepark, some wonderful old churches, cobble stone streets (that are very difficult to run on) and some cute coffee shops. Our chilly run through the city was great and the ultimate destination was beautiful in the misty morning.

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Right next to the castle there was a photo exhibition that focused the general public and their personal castles. The photos were great and the best part was not the castles, but the people posing. I wish I had a house, because this would  be one of my first projects. Forget the gnomes, just bring on the brick and mortar plopped in the middle of a moat.

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A quick stop to admire some of the best city wall art to this day and a stroll through a great farmers market and we headed back. Time to cut out (we decided we would be back since it was only 3 hours away) and make a run for the Polish border. Warsaw or bust!IMG_4068 IMG_4070 IMG_4071

September Fall Festival

Last weekend we joined some friends at an outdoor market right in the center of Old Town. It was a brisk, windy day which resulted in me buying a 20 EUR hat (hand knit, but way to expensive… I felt bad for the old lady selling them and was freezing my butt off). It did not help that I had wet hair too, but that is besides the point.

In Dome square, right by the cathedral there were booths set up selling foods like honey, cured meats, jams, bread, ostrich and cheese. They were also booths with crafts such as wooden toys, woolen knit sweaters, capes, hats and scarves, amber jewelry and iron items. I wanted to buy a lot of things, but we were on our way to play poker at a friends house and couldn’t pick up a bunch of stuff, so we just looked.

The city is rather small and when you go to an event like this you see people you know at every turn. Within a minute of showing up, I found Cody, who had been out since earlier in the day and we got some beers and decided to walk around. The winter brew was so delicious and the costumes at the booth really made the experience great. We found friends in the beer line, friends to our left and friends to our right. It is fun when it happens like that.

The music was Latvian folk and we watched the singing and dancing for a while. Afterwards we hooked up with our friend Ieva and headed to a favorite bar. Quite a fun day and boy are we loving this city!

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Art Nouveau All Around Us

We love where we live. In fact, that is the next i heart Riga post, but until then let me tell you one reason why. The city of Riga is covered with evidence of the art nouveau period and the area in which we live is famous for it. When we walk all around our neighborhood we come across tourists taking photos of the buildings all around. In fact, our building IS the last building listed in this article… how cool is that. You can take a walking tour to learn more, or you can just walk around with your eyes peeled and your neck craning your head to the sky, like we have been. A tour will come when things settle down, but for now, we are thankful for the interesting art we see all around us.

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Field Trip to the Latvian Parliament

Last week we had our first Grade 5 field trip to the Latvian Parliament for our Peace and Conflict unit. It was a wonderful day for a field trip and the kids were great. The guide was really knowledgable and worked really well with the students. The building was beautiful and I learned a lot information.


If the deputy does not want paper copies, there is a tree on their mailbox


The whole building was spectacular, especially the ceilings


Furniture from the first president of Latvia


Gifts from other countries to Latvia are on display


Our Grade 5 assistant, Laima, looking at the artwork gifted to Latvia


My favorite item in the gift room

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Hiking at Pokaini

A few weekends ago our amazing principal Cal organized a hiking trip after our Saturday Open House BBQ. We packed up the car, bought some provisions, including the best chips in the world (Dill) and headed off. The drive through the country was beautiful. We saw castles, hot air balloons and some quaint country homes. We showed up, about 15 of us in all, visited the center and headed off.

At the visitors center we learned that this forrest is mystical. As the brochure states “there are many questions about this place, but few answers.” Supposedly the rocks have energy that they like to share. There are stones, big and small, collected into piles that no one can explain. “The attraction of the stones is probably that which cannot be seen, that which is perceived through he more delicate senses.”

It was great but “hike” is a stretch, especially since we call Latvia Flatvia. It looked a lot like Oregon with coniferous trees (smaller, but familiar), damp dark soil and mushrooms. The hike took a few hours and there was one hill. It was really a nice introduction to the Latvian country side.

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