Part 2: First Night Out in Latvia

Continuing where we left off... We walked from Maxima to the conert venue, the "Unfinished Skyscraper." The Unfinished Skyscraper is an unfinished and abandoned apartment building in the middle of a field. Skyscraper? Not exactly; it's about three or four stories tall. There's no roof, no glass in the windows, etc. Most of the internal walls are graffitied, some sparsely and others full on painted murals. We paid our 2 lats entry and made our way up some treacherous stairs to the main concert room... I really don't know what to call it, but it was on the second level. The walls and ceiling were sounproofed with some drab and faded mustard colored fabric over padding, which gave the whole thing a strange feel. It was fairly well lit, actually. The first band was some frightening screamo group... I really thought the lead singer was having a seizure. He basically ran around in a circle screaming into the mic. It was highly amusing once I got over my shock. After a while we left to another part of the building, a dark room with a saggy naked lady graffiti-mural, and sat there for a while, talking. Everyone spoke in English for my benefit, which was very kind of them, but I sort of feel like I won't be able to learn any Latvian this way. When someone said something in Latvian and I responded without the need for a translator, everyone was pleasantly shocked. I was rather proud of myself.

We went back and listened to part of the second band, and then went downstairs to the courtyard. The building was designed as a square with a courtyard in the middle, and now there's couches, benches, blankets, and a fire pit there. It's a fairly big space and a lot of people were just hanging out there, despite the 7 degree weather. As I am terrified of fleas and disease, I passed on the couches and blankets and instead took a seat on a bench. Again, we just sat there and talked, and it was surprisingly fun. Then a drunk Latvian came over and got really excited when he found out I was from the US. He told me about everything from how he teaches children to ski (demonstrating his technique) and about his plans to move to California and buy a hippie bus.

Cultural Observation Detour: I've noticed that when Latvians go out in groups, they tend to be gender segregated. Groups of 3 girls will meet somewhere and then meet up with another group of 4 girls and then a group of 10 girls will be going somewhere together - and it appears that guys do the same - but there are rarely mixed gender groups. Sometimes I will see one girl with her boyfriend and his friends, but I haven't actually seen a group of friends of both sexes - at least in public. Also, in the cafeteria, I've noticed guys' tables and girls' tables. Unless they're romantically involved, it seems that guys and girls don't really hang much together. At the concert, our group of 10 or so girls was sitting together, and behind us there was a group of 10 or so guys. We never interacted with them, and it was just normal.

Anyway... after the final band, who were Canadian and actually very good, it was already around 2 am. We walked maybe 10 or 15 minutes to the Hesburger in the mall. Hesburger is happening at 2 am in Valmiera. Every seat was taken inside. I had some greasy fries (good old American food... although Hesburger is actually a Finnish chain) and ice cream. We stayed at Hesburger for a bit and then walked a couple blocks to this club called Tinta, where I just walked in through the back door. We only stayed for about fifteen minutes due to the weird 70's not-quite-disco-but-close music that was spastic enough to prevent any dancing. On our way back from Tinta we ran into an acquaintance who talked to me about California and the US (I really don't know what he was going on about... I think he may also have wanted a hippie bus...) By the time he finished talking I was exhausted and there were only three of us left, so the two other girls walked me home. I surprisingly did not wake anyone up with my 3:30 am return. And that, my friends, was my first night out in Latvia.

Also, to continue the theme of this blog being hunks of text followed by a picture of Allie making a face:

According to this medal, I placed third in the Latvian BMX Championships. And I totally didn't steal this from Gatis...

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