The Build-Up

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Hello everyone! I cannot believe the last thing I talked about was New Years. Where have I been? Of yeah, in Latvia living the life of a foreigner! (Except less so. I think I am 68% Latvian by now).Where to start? Where to start? I am just going to begin and go with it. I apologize for not being chronological but you gotta do what you gotta do!

I have been involved in an unbelievable amount of concerts. I have at least 3 a month! Of course I am involved in a multitude of musical groups so I do it to myself. My show choir has been working on not only learning songs to sing, but new instruments to play! There are 9 of us and we all play instruments! Some of us for the first time! (Me included.) I will list all the instruments our group can play: guitar, piano, ukulele, box drum, shaker, bass drum, upright bass, accordion, oboe, flute, saxophone. And a lot of them overlap players. I tell you, Latvians are just talented. They have big plans! So far we have learned “Royals” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTDT0YTg7JA, “Cup Song”, and “Radioactive”. It is funny about that last one because I learned that on a Wednesday night and Thursday morning I had to play it for a contest. It was intense but I nailed it! Actually, I have never learned faster than when I have been here! It is kind of a requirement. But anyways, it is a fun time. I have never done accompaniment for people before, much less on upright bass! I really feel like part of the music! It is truly amazing! My teacher just tells me what notes to play and then I do it. Easy as that. Not too much practice is required for playing instruments, although my fingers beg to differ. I got some MAJOR blisters from the strings! It was a painful trip, but now I can’t feel a thing. So that’s good, I guess. My classical community choir has been doing a LOT of singing also. My choir director just had his 70th birthday on March 1st! We had 2 celebration concerts already and another one is coming up this Friday.

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I believe I mentioned this before, but my director is a director of four different choirs and all of them are involved in these concerts. The first one lasted 4 1/2 hours… I was so exhausted! He plays jazz in between choirs and everyone wished him a happy birthday and gave their speeches and presented him with gifts and flowers and all the while I was standing in my traditional Latvian clothes in a mob of 200 people. It wears me out just thinking about it! But I did honestly have a good time! I really love my choir! They are such wonderful people! They really take care of me and have a good time. I have made many friends in my choir and I really enjoy their company! Some of the member ask why I don’t join the youth chorus because they are younger and more lively. I truly love this choir and enjoy every part of it. The songs we sing are simply amazing and everyone is so into what they are doing it is contagious. It just goes to show that love has no limits for what it can do. Oh and good news! I was able to extend my visa so I can for sure stay for the World Choir Games in July!!! Oh Happy Day! I am super excited!

While we are talking about birthday celebrations, I just wanted to say that everyone here gets flowers for holidays. I really really enjoy this tradition. Flowers are lively and beautiful. They truly do brighten up my day. I have gotten flowers for concert performances mostly but every once in a while I get a flower on my night stand. It is just a very nice gesture. I wouldn’t mind this following me to America. *wink wink* 

We had a school dance to the theme of The Great Gatsby which is ironic because I only just read the book last year and I am pretty positive that the Latvian’s didn’t even know it was a book. Bet nekas. (Whoa! That is a Latvian phrase and it came out before English! I am just going to leave it.) We had a jolly good time! What really surprised me was that everyone actually dressed up to the theme! They looked like they belonged in the 20’s! It was awesome! 

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There were most definitely people more dressed up than us, but I didn’t manage to get a picture. I really enjoyed their effort and authenticity. Good work! And somehow I managed to get in free! There was a fee of 3 Euros but in some sort of confusion, they just gave me the admitted bracelet. I ain’t complain’! Score for me! They was actually a program to this dance. We started out with my classmates performing songs. (I did not sing because no one told me I needed to.) Then they gave out awards for things like best smile, nicest personality, heaviest partier. We had all voted the week before so it was students’ choice. Then we played games of different sorts. I only took part in one and it was because Una pushed me to join the circle. And guess what game it just so happened to be? That’s right. It was a kissing game. We had to hold a match stick between our teeth and pass a metal ring from one player to another without using any limbs. If you dropped it, then you were out. Gradually they made it harder and harder by having us stand on one foot, or not being able to hold eachother for balance. But balance has never been a problem for me so I pushed on. Finally it got to be only 5 people left, myself included. We all had to break our matchsticks in half and continue playing. It was pretty darn intimate. But nevertheless, I won! Whoo hoo! I got a massive chocolate bar! Yes, it was worth it. Then came the dancing! It was actually ballroom dancing at first! It was superb! I got asked to dance by a boy with half a clementine. How romantic. But really.

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This kid knew how to dance! He even taught me how to dance! 10 points for him! It was a very nice evening. Soon the band came and everyone started club dancing. Una and I had an adventure of our own but I do not think it is too wise to share it. Just know that it involved running through town at 10 p.m. in -15 °C weather with just a scarf and dress. 

I have written quite a lot of poems/songs recently. It has been going great! My creativity center has overflowed and things just come to me. It is so hard to try and channel it into something beautiful, but I am managing. Being in a foreign country, I am realizing my love for English. Latvian is math to me, but English is art. I love building sentences and bending the rules of grammar. I understand now that I along with singing, I will never stop writing.

I have been making a lot of progress on my Latvian. I can now truthfully say that I can understand everything in daily conversation (and in the music world). It is a strange feeling. I don’t translate in my mind but I also don’t concretely understand, like I do for English. I just simply know. It is pretty sweet! I am getting pretty fast too! My friends are all really impressed at how fast I read. I believe it comes from being in choir. I have to read a lot and read fast. It is definitely beneficial. The majority of my friends only speak to me in Latvian but there are still a few who refuse to. I think they enjoy practicing their English too much. Sometimes my friends bring friends and they know I am American but don’t realize how much I understand. When I reply to them in Latvia they are completely blown away how effortlessly I speak. It makes me feel pretty darn good. When I first decided to be a foreign exchange student, I said my only goal was to learn the language, but it is so much more than that. Language learning has dropped to a side goal. Still important, but not as important as others. I have made so many amazing relationships. I am so blessed! My friends express to me how they want me to stay for 2 more years and finish high school with them. As appealing as that sounds, I must move on. I cannot be a foreign exchange student forever. I do love it here though. I will definitely miss them. 

Spring break is coming up! My family and I are flying to Paris!! I can’t wait! I will be sure to take a lot of pictures and eat a lot of good food! And I will try to update my blog more often because I left so much out it is ridiculous. Check again in the next week. I will try to get another one up!

Thank you for your continued support and prayers. Please know that I feel them every step of the way.

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3 responses »

  1. So glad you finally found time to write! I had been wondering about you! Your experiences sound so wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

  2. You are correct about having a great sense of balance – in all aspects of your life. Well said and well evidenced through your stories. Hope the flower thing follows you everywhere. May 15 is ‘Sofija’ day – just saying…

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