After tonnes of emails and thousand calls, the time has finally come. My first interview – with a guided tour around downtown Rīga and its main historical buildings and areas – will be tomorrow afternoon.
Up to this very moment, I have been soaking up the Latvian culture and atmosphere. During my first five days in the country I have been trying to improve my Latvian – I am actually really proud of it, since it is getting better every day – and above all to understand a country that differs massively from the one I grew up in.
By that I mean keep myself updated with the latest newsy events, learn more about the palpable Soviet heritage that is easily noticeable in Latvija, especially in a great number of its buildings – the mixture of neglected areas and the old colourness Soviet buildings – and the stratification of Latvija’s society, the huge gap between rich and poor people.
I mixed myself among natives as much as I could, getting on rural buses that took me around the countryside in southern Latvija and getting lost in popular markets. Once someone told me that the best way to see a new country through the natives’ perspective is by visiting its daily markets and buy at least something in any of the stalls in them.
There are loads of individuals living just above the poverty line in Latvija. These people are the ones who were and are worst affected by the economic crunch that hit the country some three years ago. They mainly live in rural areas, but their presence in Rīga is easy to notice. However, this is something I will be talking about in future posts.
Let’s go back to the interview. The name of my interviewee is a big one among the non-citizens or aliens – without playing down other non-citizens importance.
I am not going to reveal it now, I would ask you instead to stay tuned for following posts. But I am telling you that he acquired citizenship by naturalisation and the Government of Latvija revoked it, for he took part in a series of education protests, something the authorities considered disloyal to Latvija.
PS One of the things that surprised me the most was the large number of drawing and sketching artists I have seen around Rīga city centre. They seek out inspiration on the capital’s Art Noveau for which it is widely known.