Sunday, November 30, 2008

Living in a foreign land

Even though I knew that I would be coming to a land where English was not commonly spoken, it's still a new experience for me to not be able to understand anything that anyone is saying around me.

I am feeling a little more comfortable about speaking the very limited Latvian words I know. I say "Labrit" (good morning) as I pass people on the street and "Paldies" (thanks or thank you) when appropriate. I can introduce myself as Masa (Sister) Klundta (they add a vowel to everyone's name). There are people who speak English for which I am very thankful. The young missionaries interpret or translate for Sister Harper and me at Church. I'm amazed at their language skills.

Tomorrow I will have to begin the process of obtaining a visa. I understand it's quite a complex procedure, beginning with a chest x-ray. I will have to travel to the Latvian embassy in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. That seems rather silly to me, but that's the way it is.

We have gone to a small grocery store and to a large "hypermarket" which I suspect is a poor translation of American "Supermarket." It's difficult to go shopping for food when you can't read labels. Yesterday we bought some cranberries. I was so excited. When we opened the package they were raw cranberries alright, but they were coated with sugar. The label said that, but we couldn't read it. I will take my dictionary with me next time we go.

The hypermarket doesn't come even close to our supermarkets. The selection of breads is great but with other things there is not much selection. They don't use preservatives in their breads so they dry out and don't last very long, but they taste good.

Translating cost from Lattes to dollars is another challenge, as is figuring out how many kilograms in a pound.

One of the saddest things I've noticed is that the people don't every make eye contact and always look sad or depressed, or just unfriendly. I wonder how much is because of their environment. Everyone in the city lives in apartment buildings that are very old. The sky is always grey. In 4+ days I haven't seen the sun at all. It seems to be a safe place. People walk everywhere.

Another thing I've been very surprised at is the amount of graffiti--all over the buildings and fences. It doesn't seem to be painted over anywhere.

Smoking is another thing I'm seeing everywhere. I have lived in a protective bubble the past 19 years. It isn't allowed on the public transportation nor in the public buildings, I believe, but is on the streets everywhere.

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