Why am I proud of being a Latvian?

meitenju profilsAdmitting it or not but we all love when the name of our country pops up on a list with a positive connotation. Suddenly we are all reminded and remember why we are proud of who we are and that’s a good thing, right?? Not always though..

Over last couple of days and article has been shared and shared and shared by the online Latvian community about the fact that Latvian women are among the most beautiful in the world (well, actually the blogger who made the list said they are THE MOST beautiful in the world). And as flattering as it is I find it a shame that I have never seen the same lever of sharing of other good facts about Latvia. So, here are my reasons why I am proud to be a Latvian.

Latvians keep their traditions alive

We have enormous amount of traditions that have kept us together as a nation for centuries, that have let us survive and keep our identities. For example, every year we celebrate Midsummer. A magical experience of everyone making flower crowns, bonfires blaze all over the country, people jump across those fires, sing and have Midsummer cheese and beer.

Obviously, the spectacularity of this is best seen in Latvia, but I love that Latvians keep this tradition alive abroad with perseverance year after year.

Midsummer bonfire. Photo credit: Janitors

Midsummer bonfire. Photo credit: Janitors

Another tradition that always seems a bit exotic to many and is kept alive in Latvia, is a series of obstacles newly weds have to get through before they are considered to be married. Latvian weddings usually take 2 days with series of activities taking places throughout the whole period. The experience for the newly weds might be annoying on some level, but loads of these challenges have deeply rooted meaning. More on Latvian wedding and some other traditions you can find here.

Latvia has the most amazing wilderness nature

Fog in the countryside. Photo credits: zigurdszakis

Fog in the countryside. Photo credits: zigurdszakis

Being a small country with a small amount of people living in it has given Latvia an advantage of having huge spaces of wild nature. For Latvians it’s very calming to be in the nature. Latvians go berry and mushroom picking, our best way to relax is to be in a meadow not far from a lake or river, or to have a walk on (or next to) the frozen sea in the winter.

Latvians have one of the most amazing festival in the world

We have been described as the nation who sings. And dances. I think it comes from very deep within. Sort of a survival technique through different “masters” we’ve had leading us to a “better life” throughout the times.. Singing and dancing is an outlet, it’s our identity.

Even now when we are an independent nation, once in 4 years we continue to honor this part of our identity and have our national song and dance festival. Latvians from all over the world are flying back to take part in it either as dancers/singers or as spectators. In any case, being there will make you shiver from the monumentalism of the moment

Latvians love to make things with their hands

Pottery making is one of the many crafts Latvians are fond of.

Pottery making is one of the many crafts Latvians are fond of.

Craftsmanship in Latvia is something that has been valued throughout the centuries and even though it was “downgraded” during the soviet times, now the time has come again when things made by hand, with love, are highly appreciated.

Below are some links for some items/presents made with love but a trip to Latvia will let you have the best choice possible. Especially if you manage to go to one of the craftsmanship markets that are very popular during the warm months.

Latvians use nature for healing

No, don’t think that we are against the modern medicine. It’s just that in Latvia healing is something that is very close to our hearts. I remember my Grandma teaching me which plant to use to stop bleeding, which plants are the best to dry for teas and which are the poisonous ones.

Chamomile is one of the flowers Latvians would save for their winter tea. Photo credit:  Pere Tubert Juhé

Chamomile is one of the flowers Latvians would save for their winter tea. Photo credit: Pere Tubert Juhé

We pick our berries, plants, flowers, we dry them, pickle them, make them in jams. Whatever you can imagine that associates to you with rural and natural living, Latvians would be doing and loving it. During winter our biggest recipe to fight colds and flue is to make a tea from the plants that have been gathered during the summer. Almost in every household you’ll find plenty of tea supplies to carry one’s family throughout the winter.

Latvians do have fun

There are all kinds of Latvians: serious, fun, easy going, complicated, smart, musical etc but if you’d have to give the general description of the nation, you wouldn’t think of it as the most funny nation in the world. But is that true? See these 2 unusual contests that Latvians are having. Just for fun 🙂

Scything Contest

Wife carrying contest

Life without internet. Approved.

live simplyRecently I read an article on how a writer has cut off his internet at home to be more productive. As I was reading it, I realized that I’ve turned my private life very much dependent from internet, creating rituals that way too often involved staring at the screen. And even though I though it would be a good idea to try his experiment, I didn’t have the guts to do it on my own.

Thankfully I didn’t have to make any decisions as  my internet provider screwed something up which resulted in no internet in our household. And as it goes in Belgium (no offense:  I love a lot of things about Belgium, but client service isn’t one of them), the problem was not solving itself very quickly. I was left without the internet for 3 weeks. Retrospectively looking at it, I loved it.

3 stages of emotions

Obviously the first day I was cut off, I was outraged. “How can they do this to me!!,” I thought to myself. “Me, the paying client?!?!? I should be the queen! I should be served within 30 seconds!” As you can imagine, this did not lead to any results except that it transitioned into feeling that I am missing something… Like with any addiction, it felt like a part of me doesn’t know what to do. I was like a junkie looking for a fix. Looking, if I could steal someone’ s wifi suddenly was my priority. I couldn’t (people nowadays know how to protect themselves).

And then I let it go. I gave up the need to have the feeling of being connected and was happy to be. Suddenly I DID have the time for those million tiny things I wished I could have done earlier. I enjoyed my cup of coffee. I read an article. I wen outside. I lived simply. Or simply lived.

There and then I promised myself that I will try to stick and cultivate that feeling as much as I can outside the work life (and eventually maybe to bring it in parts to work as well).  To live simply. Or simply live. In the widest sense possible.

Getting my freedom back

IMG_2972I was a good girl last year. At least Santa thought so, as I got the perfect Christmas gift: exactly what I wrote in the letter to Santa about. I got my freedom back! How, you ask? Well listen to my story then!

Becoming Mum has been one of the REALLY great events in my life. However it meant that suddenly I couldn’t go riding my bike any more. And biking was my daily life, it was a part of me. I was biking in Brussels up till my last days of pregnancy, I always rent a bike when going on mission to Strasbourg and I always want to convince whoever is with me to rent bikes on the citytrips.

Not only I find biking a really good exercise  but it lets you experience city in a different way and (the most importantly probably), you are independent from the public transport (anyone heard of crazy bus drivers in Brussels ??) neither ever will you get in a traffic jam! I think these facts alone form a very strong point why there should be more bikers on the streets.

Anyhow, all these good arguments go out the window if you can’t take your little one with you. When I looked for the information about the earliest age babies can go on the back of the bike, results were not to my liking at all: when they are 9 months old, they said. Some parents say: when they are holding their heads very steadily, you can start biking with them. That would be around 6 months. But still.. that’s 6 MONTHS… After 6 years of daily biking that seemed extreme to me.

And then came the freedom


First sightseeing trip for Seppe

Little did I know that Santa has some good friends in Netherlands where  genius system has been created  to allow you to go biking with your little one. Steco is a Dutch bicycle company, one of the biggest ones in fact. They have various solutions for your bike, whether that would be taking your baby along or going shopping or securely transport something on your bike.

And this was the reply to my freedom request. Baby mee is a system that lets you put the car seat behind your bike easily and securely, it has suspension  providing the ride for your little one to be as smooth as possible. On the 1st fo January we went for the first bike ride. We took it really easy and slow. And you must: after all, suddenly all your weight has shifted to back and you need to learn to ride your bike again.

Was it easy? No, not the first 30 minutes. Was it fun? Yes, after first 10 minutes, when I was used to the new weight and steering, it became fun..  Did the little one enjoy it? I say yes: there was no crying, no fussing for 1 hour. He had 1 hour of sleep rocked by the rhythmical pedal movements!

As the information says not to take the little one out before 4months (yes, I went 1 month ahead), there is not going to be any risky biking or racing in the nearest future for us  but I am sure we will be seen on the streets and in the parks of Brussels enjoying the views!!

Oh, yes, and if you need some musical inspiration for these bike rides, here is an appropriate one (this time in Dutch):

Some useful cycling information