I have a Latvian sister...her name is Kristiana...wait, I have several! There are so many amazing people over here who have loved our boys from the time they met them...and others who didn't know them when we started this journey but have been along with us the entire way since March of last year. And then still others who God used to start the Latvian leg of this journey three years ago when they first convinced Janis he should try hosting. I am still amazed.
Yesterday and today have been just visiting. Janis had wanted to go ice skating so we had walked over to see what time we could skate...and we thought it was 9:45am. We had stayed up late on Monday night so we were a bit tired but I woke him at 9, we quickly got ready and ran downstairs for a bite of breakfast. We headed out around 9:30am and walked to the skating rink. Unfortunately, he misunderstood...and skating was actually 7:45pm...not 9:45am. Breakfast was done by now at the hotel so we went to Cafe 53 right next to the hotel and I ordered some breakfast and he had coffee. We were both still really tired so we decided to head back to the room and hang out for a bit while we decided what to do next.
I sent him on back because I wasn't done yet and I think we both enjoyed a bit of quiet to start the day. I had ordered fried eggs with potatoes and it was so interesting when it came. Three fried eggs sunny side up with french fries and a side of cold sugar peas. It was actually quite good. I sat there and used their free wifi and checked emails along with facebook. Sent some messages to folks and decided to head back.
Before doing so, I walked a little down Jomas street and snapped a few pics. I've found that I have taken more photos of scenes and places and buildings and streets than I have of me or Janis. I keep thinking we will want to remember these places when the visits are more than four months apart.
I mean think of it...we met Janis and Latvia came to us...three months later we traveled for the first time to this place and fell in love with not only the boys but the land...6 months later we traveled the second time and got to experience even more of it, four months later here we are again...and now final trip will be only two months. After that, no one is certain how long it will be before we are here again.
I realized the battery on my camera was going dead so I went back to the room and set it up to charge it. Janis was there and asking me what took me so long ;-) He missed me! We laid around, Facebooked (nothing going on because the rest of the world was still sleeping) and finally got a message from his sister asking when we were coming. We checked out the schedule and chose the buses as the best way to get to Kauguri.
We had gone through the items from gifts from the orphanage for the boys and picked out things that either wouldn't fit or would be difficult to travel back with and packed up a box for Zhenya. We walked down to the bus stop and as we waited and were about to board, who was running towards us but Edgars. He gave me a big hug and a manly one to Janis and about that time the bus came. Funny moment...a man in front of me turned to me and spoke to me in Latvian and I looked at him helpless. Janis heard him but answered in half english, half latvian ;-) He wanted to know how much it was for the bus and Janis answered "Fifty centimes." That got rousing laughter from several...took me a minute because it sounded perfectly normal to me.
We boarded the bus and it was crowded...no place really to sit. A few stops down Aigars jumped on board as it was the bus that passed his school. I stood in the midst of these boys who visited and laughed and periodically I got an "isn't that right mom?" and a smile. He was telling them about our cars, dad's van, things from home. These boys LOVE cars...machinas (sp?).
We arrived at Kauguri and walked to Opis apartment. This time I remembered to remove my shoes...everyone does here. Zhenya was jumping around and has named me his American Aunt. I'm ok with that for now but someday he'll understand the relationship we have with his uncle Janis. Our neat little table was already set up with gingerbread cookies and we settled in to visit. They were visiting with each other and I played with Zhenya so Janis wouldn't have to translate every five minutes. We read books...I would point to a picture, he would say the Russian word for it, I would say the English word and sometimes Aigars would chime in with the Latvian word.
Karina made us tea again and Zhenya ran around placing a cookie on the edge of everyone's saucer. Yep, I took photos. We visited a while longer and the boys played video games, I watched iCarly in Russian (that was interesting) and impressed the guys with my typing skills. We left for dinner about 4pm or so and we wanted to treat the family to our traditional Mica Pica there in Kauguri.
As we walked to dinner, I snapped photos of this group walking together...honestly it was very hard not to cry as we walked seeing what Janis is leaving, knowing he is choosing a mom and a dad over brothers and sisters, understanding the love Opis has for him and encouraging him to go and make a better life with love of a family forever. I am so proud of him and his courage!
We got to dinner and the food was good...service was slow and rude...and the entertainment offensive! Only to me though...and Janis...since we were the only two English speaking. We were privileged to have a concert of eminem all through dinner...ugh! All of this was irritating but it was still dinner with family...they had fun and so did I.
We walked back to the apartment afterwards to get Karina's things...they had all decided to go with us ice skating! Fun!! The walk back was brutally cold. I could feel my nose doing that crackly thing again and I mean cold!! We got to the apartment and it was only 18 degrees Celsius INSIDE the apartment...folks, that is COLD. Makes me feel quite a bit spoiled when we have our AC in our hotel room set on 16 degrees Celsius because it's so stinkin' hot in here. As we started to leave, it dawned on me, this would be the last time we would see Opis before leaving this trip. This made me sad...Janis gave big hugs...me too. He said some things to me that Janis translated as thank you, see you soon...in March. I told him I loved him and we'd be back soon and I bundled up and headed to the elevator before anyone saw my tears.
Aigars bowed out at the last minute which upset Janis but I told him shake it off and let's go have fun. We went down to the buses and ran in to Janis' friend again...please be praying for this boy. He is Janis' age and was dropped off at the orphanage when he was 11 because his parents just didn't want him anymore. His reaction has been one of misbehaving and anger...no wonder he doesn't welcome hugs from me. Anyway, he stayed for just a minute and then off he went. The mini bus came and we boarded and here's a tip for how cold it is...the windows INSIDE the bus have ice on them. You'd think it's just the condensation inside right? Turn up the defroster? Oh no, the inside is FROZEN. Oh my!
We got to the skating rink and I'm a bit nervous...haven't skated in a couple years but hey, for my kid? OK. We got our skates, got ready and away we went. We had to wait a bit as it didn't start before 7:45pm and while we waited Edgars bought us all small cups of hot chocolate for 45 centimes each. He is a very giving boy...another one to pray for please.
I look very much like the abominable snowman in my super big but warm jacket from my mama...but I have proof I skated! Quite well at that. And if you've seen my video, well yeah, showoff did too. I love the fact that most of what he talked about was wanting to go with Zach more to get him used to skating, wanting to see M&M skate and most of all...gotta get Daddy on some skates!
This skating rink is outdoors but fully covered to break the wind. It was still cold though and I was thankful the hour passed quickly. My hands were frozen!! We left from there back into the cold and walked quickly to a side street to Cafe 53 where I treated us to Karamelju Kaffe (probably massacred that)...we chatted about Karina's work, Edgars education, how Edgars can get a job...staying out of trouble.
We invited them up to our room for a visit since the buses came every 30 minutes. They came on up and with work coming the next day, only stayed for about a half hour. We downloaded photos and I showed them everything we had seen and done since we'd been here this time. They loved it...all four of us piled on the bed and looking at photos and laughing...language not such a big deal. It was time for them to go and once again, I'm the one with tears in my eyes. I hug them both...it's a little easier this time knowing we'll be back in two months...but still.
They left and Janis walked them to the bus stop, stopping on the way back for our water. We stayed up laughing and talking and talking and laughing til we were both pretty exhausted.
Today has been super quiet...we slept in a bit, and made it to breakfast just before closing time. I found pancakes are my favorite here now...wish I had tried them the first morning. We walked to the trains and made our way to Riga to meet friends and check out Central Market. Did I mention how COLD it is??
Once we got to Riga, we had to find our friends, the Butlers. As we deboarded the train and walked down the perons, it was like greeting an old friend. There's the kiosk with the leather purses I look at every time we come...there's the Rimi we shopped at because it was on the way home that night...
We walked all around Stockman and it did take the two of us to actually find them...but we did! We had a very short visit with a Latte and a Rutebaga pastry before they had to rush off. Their girls are adoreable!! From there we decided to see what we could find in the market. I had so wanted some mittens because my gloves protected my fingers but didn't really keep me warm. Within a short walk, my hands and face were hurting so badly from the cold. I cannot imagine what the homeless or poor are going through right now. We actually passed an older woman wearing a hat, light suit jacket, short skirt, knee socks and low dress flats. I would normally have said it was a fashion statement but I can promise you from the condition of the clothing, she was wearing what she had.
We walked around the outdoor portion for a short time but it really was too cold. Janis found a hat he liked and I had to buy one too...we both needed one it just made me laugh we waited til the last day when it is 60 degrees back home! I so wanted gloves but they were five lats for one pair and I wanted to get them for everyone..so I decided to forego that for this trip.
Janis had never been inside or maybe only a couple times so we went into the hangars and started walking. We had such a good time exploring and seeing this amazing market for the first time. I have tons of photos from in here although I never found the tongue that the Callens and Hess-Bonner family made famous. We were in search of something special for Daddy...I won't ruin the surprise here ;-) I found some wooden spoons and such that were much cheaper than the ones outside and looked all over for an amber cat or horse for M&M but none was to be found. As we walked by one booth, Janis asked me if I wanted to taste a real Piragi...of course I do! We bought two for 16 centimes and that was lunch...YUMMY!
It was nice to hear what he likes to eat...he wants me to cook chicken fried in the pan (not breaded like southern...more like Mom's Worcestershire chicken), pork chops either breaded and fried or just fried, potatoes...lots of potatoes. All of that is stuff I can and most likely have cooked before...and everyone likes it! After yesterday, we also agreed that we need to do more active stuff as a family...I think everyone will agree to that.
We had gotten word earlier that Kristiana wanted to stop by and see us and she was going to leave work early for it. So we caught the 3:22pm train back...before leaving I ran in the Rimi and got us some more Pickwick tea...love this stuff! We rode the train back and hurried to walk back to our room to freshen up a bit.
On our first night I had seen the Russian Kitty and had hoped to see him again for a photo for M&M...well, there he was! Quick photos, run up to our room, try to do something with hat hair and she was here. She had a plan to take us driving in the "rich" section of Jurmala and see the fine houses...she said "You've seen Kauguri, Sloka and Kemeri...it is time you see the rich side of Jurmala...Leilpe, Bulduri, Dzintari." It was so fun and all she could talk about was how much Gary would enjoy this. I made her promise to do it again if Gary comes back with us for last trip.
We ended at a Japanese restaurant...turns out she's a big sushi fan too! We ordered a bunch for the table and some wings for Janis too and chatted and ate. Dinner was over and it was time to go...she and I both with tears in our eyes and looking at this crazy boy across the table thanked each other at the same time. I told her I have a Latvian sister...and I cannot thank her enough for loving on our sons til we could get here. She made Janis promise to make the most of his life...she's so proud of him.
She'll be here tomorrow to take us to the airport so we will get to say goodbye once more. Neither of us can believe the week has gone so quickly...we are ready to go because we miss the crew back home...but parts of us will always be here. Kristiana said again what a better life these boys will have in America...and I don't doubt that. But I also know without a shadow of a doubt that our lives will be that much richer because of the prodding given to us by God and the answer we gave him back...you know that verse about "more than we ever imagined or dreamed possible?" Yeah...that's us. (Ephesian 3:20)