Simon's diary - Latvia 2010 - Day 2

   

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Taxi driver : “The trouble is there's too much corruption, this country could be something but it's lost its way”

The thought that character is fate keeps passing through my mind. How we relate to others has a massive effect on what happens to us. The Soviets would not engage with the rest of the world, especially economically and consequently it stagnated and finally collapsed under its own weight.

One almost wants to grab the Latvians by scruff of the neck and show them all the things they've been blessed with and tell them to start working with the rest of the world rather than in the rest of the world.

100,000 young Latvians work outside of Latvia , the population is only just over 2 and a half million so that's a big drain on its resources. ~ Perhaps given that a third of the population isn't of Latvian descent is behind a lack of affiliation with the country.

I walk towards Alibi, a new white Porsche is humming in the street, a woman puts on her make up in the rear view mirror.

I think of Italy and how the Mafia has undermined the country's development.

Taxi driver : “Property is so cheap here now, you wouldn't believe it”

I think of the collapse in our economy, partly due to the “corrupt” practices of the banking and property market all around the world.

It isn't communism, or capitalism, or socialism that brings countries to their knees it's corruption. Whether it's by the elite rulers or the low level workers, in time it brings about a collapse of the system.

 

I look around at the multitude of empty buildings in Latvia , and think about the effort and dreams that went in to building them and now they're slowly disintegrating and blending in to nature.

Taxi driver : “We have the biggest unemployment levels in Europe ”

The streets are filled with street performers, musicians, rides and beggars, over 60% of old people's pensions is spent on their rent, and that's before heating and food.

 

Taxi driver : “If you lose your job you have no chance of getting another one”

I think about the charmless receptionists and waitresses and wonder if they realise what effect they're having on their economy.

I ask the Taxi driver what he thinks of British tourists.

Taxi driver : “I am happy that they bring money in to the country”

Not all his fellow country people seem to be with him. Would I want to return back to Latvia in a hurry? Probably not. Why? Because the service is generally not what I'd expect. There are exceptions of course, some people were lovely (E.g Daisy in Alibi and the staff in the Kolanadez Hotel –Rezekne- ). Is this racist? Possibly, but then the internet has many pages where people write that the Latvians are rude. Perhaps it's a warning to us all that we can not ignore how we treat our fellow citizens of the world, that somehow there's a consequence.

I have never felt that a waitress or waiter is my servant but instead that I am paying them to help me ~ that is of course assuming they get some of my money! ~. There is nothing humiliating in that arrangement, in fact if I was to see them as below me I would be degrading myself. Perhaps it's a case that if people feel forced in to this role that way they feel degraded and transfer that feeling on to the people they are serving, but either way if someone's abrupt towards me, then I can't help but feel something is wrong.

Here's my point, in all this interaction it's very easy to confuse the issues and make conclusions that aren't accurate. My duty as a fellow citizen of the world is possibly not to take it personally or start feeling angry, but instead to realise that I don't really understand what's going on, step back and resist making conclusions.

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Sue and I took the last tour bus of the evening and as I took photos through the window the bus suddenly leant one way and then the other, in the process I banged my lens against the window and the camera whacked my eyebrow. I laughed, checked my lens and continued photographing with a little more distance between myself and the window.

 

 

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Tomorrow I've planned to go to the street in Rezekne where my father lived as a child. It's a 3 and a half hour train trip, we can only stay for a couple of hours before we have to get the last train back. Sue is tempted to stay behind and watch England lose to Germany in the World War Cup, but I think she fancies an adventure too.

* * *

Once again we end up in the bar with my cousin Eddie and his wife Miri. Drinks are cheap here so I decide to have a Pina-Colada, halfway through it, and feeling a little sick, I pass it to my more practiced drinking partner Sue who downs it in a few seconds. I was quite astounded though when I was drinking it to find that when I drank it through the green straw it tasted better than through the pink one. We all took it in turns to check out my theory and found that whilst we didn't all agree which one tasted better, there definitely seemed to be an illogical difference between them. And on that quandary I went to our room, lay down and deliberated which of the sheep in Animal Farm I would count.

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