26 de enero de 2014

My time in Latvia | second part

This is the second part of this recount (check the first part out). A text about thoughts, ideas and observations after almost two years in Latvia about to finish.

Latvians have a particular and admirable close relationship with nature and what they call pagan costumes and traditions. They daily life is still well connected to nature cycles and there is wisdom on it I conspired something to keep learning from. The use of some herbs, different types of honey or the amazing skills for mushrooming are only some few examples.

There are two interesting healthy habits in the Latvian society I always stress.

Firstly, the nutritional diversity in Latvia is still connected to the weather cycles: lots of berries in autumn, rich in calories and carbohydrates during winter, fresh vegetables during spring and summer. 

Secondly, you will rarely see overweight people. In spite of the heavy consumption of potatoes and bread (and beer), people in the Baltic region is very active, they walk a lot (even during the heavy winter) and spend many hours gardening or practising outdoor sports year round (and yes, in winter as well).

Albeit the size of the country barely over 2 million inhabitants, you will always see Latvian teams in the summer or winter Olympics performing well.

On the other hand, two unavoidable topics I will sum up in one line each: weather and food.

It can always get colder, winter last 6 months, it rains more than in the UK but summer and autumn are lovely.

Apart of a very few exceptions, Latvian food is something I won't miss, at all.

Soviet legacy is as alive as denied. I am not intending to enter the muddy ground of politics, every society lives on contradictions though I believe Latvia must come to terms with its recent history and get over the confrontational narrative, however it was very tough to deal with enclosed minds, people unwilling to challenge inequalities boost by the new elite blinding the public opinion with market-based smokescreens.

The protection of Latvian language is in many of the cases a discursive weak argument. Such argument, is fuelling an ethnic-based and segregating approach State that sooner or later with show deeper cracks.

Around 1.3 million people speak the language yet there is no incentives to learn it, no concrete benefits for non-Russian foreigners. Conversely, it is easier and cheaper to learn Russian that Latvian in Riga, where most of Western foreigners are concentrated.

I genuinely think further debate must come from society on this issue under the umbrella of the real need of attracting migration in the next decades. I remain puzzled of whether Latvia's government truly wants foreigners to learn the language and boost a multicultural society or is rather everything about foreign investment and money.

Thus, I finish these two posts recalling my childhood. I see myself more than two decades ago holding an universal atlas book and "discovering the new States" emerging from the USSR. I was attracted by that rare red in the flag and the intense sight of the blonde couple appeared on the picture. I never thought I would spend unforgettable moments there.

I will always keep in my heart the intense colours on the Latvian landscape, I will always admire Latvians taste and their close connection to the nature, while I will advocate from the distance for further social cohesion and better days for their people, somehow my people too.

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