Saturday, May 28, 2011

Random Reasons to Report

Hello! Just a few random items to discuss today as we have been doing "this and that" over the past week. We spent an afternoon on the warm beach of Jurmala several days ago. That sand is the most beautifully, soft, silky, fine sand on the earth! Absolutely delightful to stick your bare feet into.

Jurmala, Latvia

Neatest Roller Coaster playground structure

Someone in the U.S. really needs to get this on the market!

We continue our occasional bike rides around Salaspils while the kids are in bed. They are considered our "date nights".

Scenery around's so oppressive to see these buildings. Is it to the locals? I don't know yet. I haven't wanted to bring it up! It's just the "middle class American suburban housewife" in me that has these old Soviet buildings giving me the shivers. 

One more picture of me showing off on the bike! I mean....this is pretty special! We always joke that it's like being in a movie, riding thru an Italian village...hehehehe.....we've even packed the baskets down with food from the market and biked home! 

The cemeteries in Latvia are certainly notable. They are nestled into the forest. People take great care to create a beautiful, loving resting spot for their loved ones. It really is similar to gardening. Around many plots are cement borders, occasionally a decorative fence along the border of several plots, obviously where many family members are buried together. Plots are lined with planted bushes and garden flowers. I've never seen anything like it. Perhaps this is common elsewhere, certainly not in the U.S. It is very peaceful and quiet in the forest with birds chirping their merry little songs. It is humbling. It is thought provoking. It makes me think of the delicate nature of life. When we are here we have a reason to visit the cemetery. Jekabs' sister Katrina is buried in one. She died 10 years ago from injuries sustained in a car accident in the U.S. We visited her grave 2 days ago. 

Keeping with serious topics......We also visited the concentration camp that was built during WWII that sits within minutes of Salaspils. I actually never knew it was there! In the 3 previous trips I took here, it never came up! That was also humbling. From the source I read, about 15,000 people were put to death here. That is also a bleak reality of the history of this part of the world. Latvia endured invasion from the Soviet Union AND the Nazi's during the WWII period of history. 
Memorial structure at the entrance

Memorial statues (do you LOVE 
how detailed I am with the content!)

Have I depressed you yet? 

Ok....I thought I would mention a few notable cultural differences.  Nothing too wild, just different. 
*People tend to avoid communicating with each other on the street and around town, no eye contact! Jekabs  
      tells me this is normal. 
*They are really stingy on grocery bags.....which you have to pay for anyway. 
* The environment feels oppressive with all the old soviet buildings.
*Life seems more simple in some ways. For example, most people don't seem to be concerned with the 
      material possessions within their homes. Most homes are very modest. From those that I have seen, they 
      are either old, Soviet style or newer but very simple. 
*Everyday I see people carrying small bouquets of flowers, either for themselves or
      as a thoughtful gesture when visiting someone's home. 

The alignment on that paragraph is a little wacky! I imported it from notepad. It'll just have to stay. Time to quit ignoring my family and get back to life offline. 

There are probably some more interesting things I wanted to share, but I can't think of them now! 


Monday, May 23, 2011

On the Move, Again

We have shifted again! We have rested our heads in 4 different homes in 10 days. This is home #4 that we will be in until June 1st. It is in the building next to Jekabs' parents in Salaspils. Don't be too envious of our new space! This is a very typical old soviet-style apartment.

Our favorite spot

Living Room converted into our bedroom.

Now......a little perspective on the little things
I look like a GIANT next to this fridge

A wee bit of milk

Brothers having a moment

Isaac and Great Grandma playing chess

Jekabs and I had our first little getaway last night...a bike ride through Salaspils while grandma watch the sleeping kids. Wow! Did I ever need that! I was getting a little desperate for some space away from kids and tiny little apartments. We also had our first little playgroup yesterday. Isaac found a 4 yr. old friend that lives downstairs and we ended up in their apartment. Kids are all the same, worldwide. Their once beautiful, harmonious, budding new friendship turned possessive and conflicted once we entered the friends domain of toys and earthly possessions! LOL!  Perhaps we should stick to the neutral fields of the outdoors, but as nature would have it, we are swarmed with mosquitos. Apparently, they will be here all summer. 

A bit of GREAT news.......We have found an amazing apartment in Riga that we will move into on June 1st. It was quite complicated finding a place to live. No one wanted to rent to us for such a short time. Anyway, this place is located about 10 walking minutes from Old Riga and 5 walking minutes to 3 really cool parks. Right in the heart of the city. Praise God for such a great place and location to call home! It completely exceeds my expectations of where we would live. I'll post pictures once we get it. It's quite nice. 

Alrighty, that's it for now.
Love, Peace, Joy.... in abundance to you and me! 


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Put it in Pictures...

The rest of the story....continued from yesterday's entry.

Big Ben...which I keep accidentally referring to as "Big Bend" just rolls right off my tongue because I am used to referring to the Big Bend area in South Texas. 

Big Ben(d)  ;)

Westminister Abbey
I sat in on a service for awhile. A beautiful choir was singing.
No, it was not a full service. The half dozen other people there were also cheap tourists getting in on Sunday for "worship". 

Isaac found a game of cricket. If you know him well , then that should make you smile knowing that he got that close to playing a game of baseball!

One of DOZENS of trains rides we took in 3 days. 

Castle outside of Little Hampton, England. This is the town Naomi was raised in. Her mother graciously hosted us for a night. A Duke lives here, you can ask Jekabs (aka....smarty pants) for the details. ;)

Brighton, England......on the South Coast.
This town is quite popular. The old stomping grounds of one of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's sons. 
We ate some delicious fish and chips (french fries) here and strolled through the downtown shopping district. 

Royal Pavilion in Brighton

And finally....our resting spot. Arriving at Jekabs' parents apartment and eating McD's.

Conclusion: I have determined that England was the perfect transition into European life. England sits in the middle of a half American/half European lifestyle. Just perfect for getting settled in. Now we are ready to set some shallow roots. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Phew....finally have 5 minutes!

Hello my wonderful Friends and Family. It is almost midnight of the 5th day we have been gone. We are in Latvia (arrived about 5 hours ago). I realize I have left you wondering for many days...and for that I am sorry! I intended writing 2 hours ago, but instead I had the opportunity (for the 5th day in a row) to rock my fussy 2 year old to midnight! Yay!

The wedding was great. The neatest little tradition came out of it. They had all the guests bring a small bouquet of fresh flowers to the bride. It is a Latvian tradition, you see. Naomi (the bride) had set up dozens of clear vases, of varying sizes, along the tables at the reception dinner. As people came and took their seats they put their flowers in a vase. It was breathtaking once all the flowers were displayed! A huge array of peonies, roses, irises, and many many other varieties of flowers in beautiful spring shades were displayed throughout the tables. Awesome! I think it should become the new wedding tradition! And to brag on the know those things were the size of half a human head! Maybe a slight exaggeration......but not by much.

My boys dressed for the wedding!

The New and Improved (cheers, Naomi!) Bikis Family

Since the wedding on Saturday, we have....
   *ridden dozens of trains throughout London
   *toured major attractions (Westminister Abbey, Big Ben)
   *stayed a night on the South Coast of England and walked through the popular town of Brighton
   *carried all of our luggage up and down the stairs of the underground
   *arrived to our final destination of Riga, Latvia

One thing is for sure about London....that place is a melting pot! When you are there, you are around people ALL THE TIME! All kinds of strange creatures passing on the street and cramming into subways.

We will spend the next couple of days looking for an apartment in Riga. We (I) have become very certain that to optimize our time here, it would be the best option to live in Riga....near the action! Will let you know how that works out.

I am going to end for now. Getting way too late for me to try to carry on.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ready, Set, Jet...

Hello Friends and Family!

Surprise! I have entered the blogging world!

Now, (before you roll your eyes)  we typically don't have that exciting of an everyday life to display in writing, however, we do have some exciting news for the summer that I want to share....
Jekabs, Isaac, Christian and I will be living in Latvia for 2.5 months this summer! We will be flying out on May 12th and returning in early August.

This trip really came about (in what I completely believe) was a God planned, Lord purposed plan for us. Jekabs brother, Peteris, has been planning his wedding in London for the past 6 months. He is getting married in 2 weeks (to a wonderful, adorable British gal, I might add).  We debated for months whether we should take our entire family for 4 days and (yikes!) $4000 to the wedding to be a part of this special day and for our kids to see their grandparents. It has been 2.5 years since we last saw Jekabs parents in Latvia. During this "debating" time Jekabs was offered a sabbatical from work this summer to make greater progress on his Ph.D. Anyway, short story made day it just dawned on me that we needed to go to Latvia for the summer. Praise God for this revelation and for this opportunity! His plan made known to us. I say that because for the past 2.5 years I have had ZERO desire to travel abroad. (Jekabs and I both have a history of taking trips abroad) Having small kids took all that desire from my heart in this stage of our parenting. Our last trip to Europe was 2.5 years ago when Isaac was 2 and Christian was a little seed in my belly. It was a great trip, but I felt strongly that it would be many, many years until our next return. That is why I say "Praise God!". Because my heart turned in an instant. I knew right away this was a God intended trip for our family.

So,  we are packing our suitcase (yes, I am hoping to travel that may end up being 2 suitcases though!) and departing Texas in a little over a week. This blog is my attempt to keep in touch with you and to share our experiences. We are eager to stray out of Latvia and explore some other cities; St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Paris. We'll just have to see how far our money and our kids will let us go!

Anyway, I would love it if you visited the blog occasionally and left us wonderful, encouraging messages every once in awhile! I am very excited about what we are doing, but also know there will be challenging times throughout the summer and...speaking only on my own behalf...... probably an occasional desire to flee home to what is familiar. But that is just human nature, right?

I'll be updating shortly after we arrive in London on May 13th. Hopefully I will get to post sooner than later.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

April......Jekabs, Isaac and Christian, too