Saturday, February 14, 2009

You wanted pictures!

Elder Hansen took our picture when we returned to the Embassy. How do you like my new haircut? And that's 2 weeks after it was cut. I have no perm, nor bend to my hair at all. I'm thankful I have a lot of hair, but it's looking a lot like a man's haircut, and not a good one at that.

Well, I can see that you are going to have to be creative in matching the pictures to my description. Each time I upload another 3 pictures, the arrangement changes. I hope my description of each is sufficient for you to figure out which picture goes with which description.

The picture below right is of the Tallinn Bussjaam (depot) as we approached it. Elder Alex Hansen traveled with Sister Harper and I. Our purpose in going was for Elder Hansen and I to obtain our Latvian living permit. Center picture is Elder Hansen (who was a lifesaver for us English-speaking sisters). He's only been here 2 months but his Russian is very good. This picture is at the Latvia Embassy and he's speaking through an intercom to get us into the Embassy. He had also obtained our return bus tickets and got a taxi for us, all with his Russian capability.

The Latvian Government is corrupt and obtaining living permits is a frustrating and expensive experience. Sister Harper (whose assignment is to work with the finances) had brought the maximum amount of money that had ever been needed, and then some. When we got inside the Embassy, we were told we needed more. And it had to be in Euros. So, we walked a few blocks to a bank (the picture of the Church was taken on the way back). Sister Harper had brought Euros, Kroons (Estonian money) and a credit card. The bank we went to would only exchange money, not allow the use of the credit card. We needed 70 Euros and 150 kroon. It cost 1098 kroon to get 70 Euros! We got the needed money and walked back to the Embassy and completed the paperwork, paid the money, which included 145Lats (Latvian money) to expedite my paperwork so that I could (hopefully) receive my invitation to go to the Migration Office in Riga to obtain my living permit on or before February 26, or leave the country, back to the U.S.
The cost in USD was 497, plus $38.10 for the bus ticket. The frustration is that the amount changes. Also, my paperwork had been submitted within the week after I arrived here and it took more than 2 months to process (we are allowed to be in the country 90 days before we have to have the living permit). We were told at the Embassy that the pouch had gone out the day before and wouldn't go out again until the next Monday (Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning are the only times they are open for us to come), hence the extra money to expedite mine. Elder Hansen arrived here on December 8 so he has a little more time. Tuesday morning was the earliest we could have gone to Tallinn.
The next day another Elder, who is serving in Lithuania, went to the Latvian Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, and they charged him only 195 USD, so there is huge discrepancy. Another young Elder was over his time and it was expected that he would have to pay a big fine, and they renewed his permit for the minimum amount. So, there's no rhyme or reason to what they charge or how they handle things, and we are at their mercy.

As we entered Tallinn, I was surprised to see the Tallinn Lexus dealership (on the left) The middle picture I took to show the most popular color for buildings--at least those that have been painted.

Picture above left is a typical baby carriage, or buggy as they were called when I was growing up. Parents don't carry their babies. The buggies are very well made to keep the baby warm and protected from the elements. It's not uncommon at all to see the father pushing the carriage, or walking with small children. In this case, the mother had run ahead to go into the store. This was in Paarnu, Estonia.

Above: I tried to capture the density of the forests. From Riga to Tallinn, there is either forest land or farmland (at least that's all we saw from the highway, which was a 2-3 lane 2-way road all the way. The forests are mostly very tall, thin trunks, with the branches very, very high. At least during the winter, you could not hide in the forest.

Taking pictures out a bus window is a challenge and this sign of Tallinn and Paarnu did have how many kilometers, but I didn't capture that part.

I tried to take a picture of a stop sign in Tallinn. One way you know you are in Estonia is that they use a lot of double vowels and consonants. Stop signs read "stopp."

I can see I have much to learn about adding pictures to my blog. It looks like you will have be "traveling" backwards--from Tallinn to Riga. The picture above on the left is a windmill, like we have in America, but there were only two (and I couldn't get them in the same picture), as opposed to a row of them in America. Middle is a picture of a typical Church in the area; in the foreground, the road signs all look similar to this. The picture on the right is about the highest elevation in the countries. They do ski here, but not downhill.

I spent Tuesday on a bus, traveling from Riga to Tallinn, Estonia, and back to Riga, with a little time in between, to obtain a living permit at the Latvian Embassy in Tallinn. What a strange life this is. Anyway, for the first time in my life, I took pictures on the way up and while there which I will download (or is it upload?) here and will write about the experience.

After the Embassy, we saw a Taxi across the street, walked over to it and he said he wasn't available. We walked to another one, parked half a block further, and he said he was busy. So we headed down the street, not knowing where anything is, looking for another taxi. After walking about 4 blocks (and it was cold!), we saw street signs (they are on buildings, rather small, and not on every corner building at that) so Elder Hansen, again using his Russian, called for a Taxi. We rode back to the bus depot and then walked across the street to a New York Pizza place. It cost 98 kroon for a large pizza, which was made fresh and which we shared. It was very good pizza. The restaurant had a restroom, for "clients" only so the clerk had to push a button to let me in, but it was clean and it was free!
The ride back to Tallinn was uneventful, other than the two men sitting in front of Sister Harper and me, who shared their bottle of spirits with each other as we traveled. We visited with Elder Hansen, who is a sharp and dedicated young missionary.
I forgot to mention that on the way to Tallinn, there was a Latvian young man in the seat in front of me, who spoke English well. He was very friendly and answered our questions about the landscape and life in Latvia. We talked with him about the Gospel but he wasn't really interested. He is probably in his mid-20s and had spent a couple of years in England, working in a Stouffer factory (or something similar) and had also spent some time in Norway. He came back to Latvia because he missed the food (ugh!) and this is where his brothers live. But he had gone to England and Norway to work because the employment situation here is not good.

The picture on the right is the "toilette" in the bus depot in downtown Riga. In most public places, you pay to use the restroom--20 santies (40 cents US). You pay the money and then go around the corner where you are given a ration of TP. I didn't need to use the facility, thankfully. To the left, I'm pointing to the time we are going to leave for Tallinn on the bus schedule. The bus was a Greyhound-type, comfortable, with large windows.

1 comment:

Dan and Nicole said...

Thanks for the pictures and update Grandma! Happy Valentines Day!