I Don't Even Have a Title for This...

So, I have been a bad blogger and have failed to update for the past week or so... I am really much too lazy right now to do a day-by-day, so I'll just write about what I can remember.

On Sunday, I volunteered at the Valmiera Marathon with 5 other girls from my class. We were working from 8 am to 5 pm, but, like with any job, most of the time was spent waiting. With the exception of skiing, it was the longest time I had spent outside in extremely cold weather - and it wasn't even officially autumn yet. What do Valmiera Marathon volunteers do, you ask? We register runners; make the medals; hand out bags that contain coupons, candy bars, vitamins, a banana, and a loaf of bread; drink ten cups of free tea; "test" the bouncy house; work at the bag check (I know all my Latvian numbers!); eat the free sandwiches; chase Bread People; eat the free candy; make sure no one steals from the Asics shop; re-test the bouncy house; go to Hesburger for fries/stalking the Valmiera basketball team; another hour of bag check madness; and, finally, load purse with free candy and leave.
The Bread People!

The best part? They gave us participation certificates and medals (the classy engraved medals, by the way, not the ones that we made) - neither of which distinguish that we were volunteers rather than participants. I have taken to telling people (like my mother) that I ran a marathon, and I have a certificate and medal to prove it! (She didn't buy it, by the way... I suppose a 17 year history of hating physical activity cannot be surpassed by a piece of paper and a hunk of metal on ribbon, however official both may be.)

Monday I had to miss school in order to go to Riga to sort out my visa. Katrin (a German AFSer who also goes to VVG) and I took the bus together at 9:45 am. We had planned on meeting at 9:30; Katrin,  being German and extremely punctual, was there at 9:20. Allie, being Allie, left the house at 9:29. At 9:35 I was almost at the bus station when I realized I had forgotten my papers and passport. So I went back home, got the documents, and speed-walked to the bus station... and then I ran as I saw it pulling away. Yes, I chased down a bus. (In case you were worried, it stopped.) We met Jordan, Jan, and Lisa in Riga (Jan and Lisa being other Germans), and took the tram to the Immigration Centre (I don't know what it's actually called, but it was in a very large, intimidating, and bureaucratic looking building; it was some sort of immigration center, so I decided to make myself look informed and write it with capital letters and the British/Jack's college's spelling.) The Germans were missing copies of their TB x-rays, but they were able to get their residence permits due to being in the EU. Jordan and I, however, had less luck. While we both had all the documents we needed from our side, AFS for some reason didn't have one of the forms needed. From what I could understand of the long-and-fast Latvian conversation, there was never a document that specifically said "(My name) is an exchange student." There were forms that said AFS was an exchange program, etc., but none that specifically stated I was an exchange student.

Wherever there's a bouncy house...
Ultimately, after a lengthy discussion and sitting in an uncomfortable chair for a couple hours, we left - Jordan and I without our residence permits. We had to leave our passports with AFS so that later they could go back with the new forms and obtain the visas in our names. While I trust AFS completely, I hate the feeling of being without a passport. I keep flashing back to the documentary I saw on Eastern European girls being trafficked into white slavery - it's always a charming guy with an "exchange program" or "work abroad program" who convinces you that you need to give him your passport for either safekeeping or to get a visa, and then he won't give it back and you can't escape and you're forced into prostitution... Okay, now I'm just rambling. I need to stop watching documentaries.

Anyway, after a rather sour start to the day, we decided to walk to the pankukas restaurant. It was cold, raining, and we were following Jordan in circles. Then we met Jordan's classmates, and it was awkward, and then Jordan left for reasons unstated, and it was just... awkward. Jan, Katrin and I had to get back to the train station, so two of his classmates walked us back. It was slightly less awkward, but, yeah... They took us through Little Moscow (the "dangerous and scary" part of Riga where no Latvians dare go) in an attempt to scare us, but they ended up scaring themselves. Us exchange students really have no fear of Russians, so...

Oh, yes, and someone hacked into my card and has been withdrawing large sums from my bank account. Also, the remaining 13 lats of cash that were to hold me over until I'm able to set up a new account in the US have mysteriously vanished. So, yeah, being broke in a foreign country is great. The worst part about the credit card thing is how easy it would be to commit fraud in Latvia. In the US, you have to enter a pin code not only when you want to withdraw from an ATM, but when you want to buy something at a store. Here, you don't even have to enter a pin! So essentially, you could take anyone's card, go to Origo, buy yourself a brand new computer and maybe a shiny red bicycle, and use their card without any hacker skills required. It's ridiculous. Yes, the hacker was somehow able to get my PIN, so this point is kind of irrelevant, but it's making me paranoid. Do you see the irony with PINs here, though? Cell phones require PINs, but credit cards don't.

Okay, rant over. I'm going to get ready for a(n allegedly giant) party now. It starts in 30 minutes, but all the cool kids (aka we're getting there) at 10 or 11. My plan for tonight? Do hair. Put on face. Get dressed. Sit on couch with tea and bread and watch some dubbed MTV. Go to party. Come home. Sleep.  Then tomorrow our school is celebrating its 90th year, and there's a giant alumni celebration and a choir concert, etc. I'm volunteering (since when did I get so charitable?) and will be directing alumni to their designated rooms by year graduated - more Latvian number practice, yay!

Oh, and one more thing! On Tuesday or Wednesday our Latvian teacher had us take a dictation, and I tried my best to keep up with the quick pace and included a lot of question marks and ellipses. Today in class, our teacher had everyone applaud me - literally - for my wonderful dictation. Of course, it had way more red marks on it than anyone else's, and I'm pretty sure I invented some new words, but apparently it impressed her! She passed it around to everyone in the class, and had 12A and 12B read it as well. She wrote on my paper that by spring I'd be writing with no mistakes, and while I doubt that, it made me rather proud of myself. An unnamed classmate said that I'd soon be better than him... but then another classmate told me that it's not too difficult to be better than him.

Speaking of the 12's, here's the picture our class took on the first day of school. Ignore the awkward pasty child in the back.

So, this post has been horribly disorganized. As a passport-less, visa-less, money-less child, I feel somewhat justified to not bother with editing this for structure. Or punctuation. Or at all. Or even coming up with a good conclusion, for that matter.

1 Response to "I Don't Even Have a Title for This..."

  1. Matt Says:

    Nice to see you having a fun time in Europe (except the cash and visa problems, obviously). Keep learnin' those numbers!

    (The weird Script Frenzy Dude)

    PS. NaNoWriMo starts soon. Imagine how fluent in Latvian you'd be if you attempted a 50,000 word novel. (Obviously you'd have to write it in Latvian though)

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