January in Latvia: Janvāris – Jēkaba mēnesis

After the intense December 2021, when Latvia welcomed me with open arms (you can read it here), January gave me the opportunity to look around and settle in my new reality. This month was focused on chilling, taking care of myself, more personal growth, sprinkled across all of which were work and fun hang-outs. Don’t worry, there’s enough to tell to keep you entertained 😉 

First week (03 – 09.01.2022)

A strong beginning of the calendar 2022, but also a perfect prelude to the last month of the lunar year – this was mostly a week of inward events and creative work. This is when I wrote the December in Latvia article, along with my guest article Few Steps for Resilient Mindset During Challenging Times in the bilingual magazine Highstreet – both of which were published in the second week of January

At the Youth House, Ance and Diana gave us training on how to make events and the posters for them – I was getting anxious about how do we do these things, and I’m grateful that the girls gave us the foundations in a very concise manner. Olena and I also shot our first IG reel of me making Christmas bread, which is linked in December in Latvia

Throughout the week, I went on several walks. One of which was with my mentor, Elina, to Liepaja’s lake. We talked about the book I want to write, the next events I want to organize, and planned that I’ll be posting weekly chapters on Wattpad, which if you want to read, you can go here on Thursdays. 

LT showed me the metallurgical factory, which, nowadays, is closed, and told me that it was the biggest one in Europe until some political schemes and corruption led to its bankruptcy. She also opened me up to a whole new taste sensation – Kārums. A piece of curd cheese with sweet flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, caramel, mango, even cotton candy! A sweet so heavenly, I ate at least 20 throughout January… if you’re in Latvia, go try these!! 

In the snowy days, Jekabs and I went around the city and the park, played with the snow, and I caught some snowflakes with my mouth. 😀 On Friday, he took me to a board game evening, where we played a very fun game Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate and the host suggested I take over some of his English language students.

I wanted to make banitsa for our January intercultural evening, for which I needed filo dough – thanks to the very few Balkan immigrants here, the only places where filo dough can be found are in Riga. And they don’t deliver! ;(  However, it’s easily findable in Ukraine. On the 6th of January was the Ukrainian Christmas, so Olena went back home for a few days. I asked her to bring filo dough if she can find any, and she did!! 

In the days, in which I ruled our apartment single-handedly, I got to experience what it’s like sitting with my emotions and feelings (heavy in the beginning because of the build-up, lighter and more enjoyable later on) and to express them as loudly and weirdly as I wanted to. I wiped out unnecessary pictures from my phone and laptop, made myself a digital vision board (my new laptop screen saver), and had 3 whole fan moments, when Eric Nam dropped his new album, when I got myself a massive SHINee-colored candle, and when I got a History of Magic book. I discovered how much I’ve grown to like candles and their light in the past month, as well as the feeling of melted wax on my skin. 

Second week (10 – 16.01.2022)

Judging by the start, 2022 is going to be a board game year. This week I taught Olena and a youngster how to play Catan on two different days, then she and I played Ticket to Europe with a boy that didn’t speak English, so figuring out the rules involved the whole present YH staff 😀 At the bar with Jekabs, I taught him how to play the card game War and he showed me some Latvian card games (a few of which I also played in middle school).

At the Youth House, we had our first intercultural evening and I had my first solo event. We forgot to take pictures of the first one, where we did quizzes about Bulgaria and Ukraine, talked about the Ice horo on the 6th of January, danced pravo horo, guessed in what language are certain phrases, listened to pop music from both countries, I showed some traditional Bulgarian dances, and we played Saboteur (heh, I did good – won in 2/3 rounds :D). We also had some food prepared – I made banitsa with lucks, while Olena made wheat with raisins, poppy seed, honey, and walnuts. Right after this fun evening, I had a call from one of my mom’s friends, who wanted to know more about EU co-financed travel options for youth (read more here in English, if you’re also curious).

On Friday, a stranger texted me to ask for advice on Human Design because of how I write in Facebook groups on the topic. Heh, writing really is my forte, as it seems. He turned out to be a really nice interlocutor, so most of the day we talked/texted, which gave me a confidence boost for Saturday.

On Saturday, the 15th of January, I hosted a Human Design (HD) Workshop with a focus on decision-making – 8 girls took part! We talked about some HD theory, I explained the types, strategies, and authorities, that were present in the group, then we played some games and practiced feeling the responses. This time, Olena and Diana took some nice pictures :3 I chatted with everyone after the event, I’m glad the girls had good feedback on it and that they’d be interested in more spiritual events. Let’s see what will my brain give birth to in the next months. 

The same evening, I went to Jekabs’ birthday party – a Latvian house party! They’re very similar to BG ones, where we all sit around a table, eat, drink, talk, and sing. I was ‘adopted’ by some wonderful girls, with which we chatted and danced a bit. Most of the evening, I was entertaining myself by trying to guess what people were talking about or what the songs were about. Most of the guests were musicians of some sort, so there was lots of singing (in Latvian, of course, of old songs), a quiz, some dancing, and cool conversations! I had so much fun. Even made a drinking buddy, with whom we’d cheer each time one of us drank, no words needed.

The day after the birthday, I helped clean up the space and played more board games with the birthday boy, who is in a band (@grupaede on IG). He let me hear their 3 recorded songs, and I am so excited for them to drop them!! I will definitely share them here, they’re soo good! I tried one of the Rigas Balzams (very Latvian alcohol), which tasted like a mix between licorice and mint. Also had spicy pepper balzams – my new love! So spicy, so hot, so delicious! 

Of course, this week didn’t go without walks. Jekabs and I walked around the lake one evening when I learned that there has been a music festival on the water. Another day I went to the sea on my own because my company is great. 

Third week (17-23.01.2022)

This week was chill with some unexpected turns. 

Olena and I shot our Interview in Latvian reel. I made two banitsas – a regular one and one with leek and corn, which Olena liked. My on-arrival training’s dates were set for the following week, for which I got an invitation. Something I put a start to was my conscious self-care, for which I got myself a tasty smelling body lotion, did short yoga or warm-ups daily, and cooked most of my meals this week. 😀 

This week I finally got myself a Latvian number and a mobile data plan, for which I rewarded myself with a walk to the seashore, where the sand was dancing. Another friend had his birthday and since he’s on a different continent, he tagged me on an IG post to thank me for our connection and sent me a super sweet text with what he enjoys in our relationship. This month I got a few appreciative texts, which makes me so, so happy!

As my personal goal progress, I wrote the outline to “Confessions of a woman in love” – my book about the loves in my life. From this week until the 10th of February, I wrote my first few chapters and published 3 of them. You can read and follow it here every Thursday, as I mentioned earlier. For now, the chapters will be only in English. 

On the weekend, Olena and I had planned to go to Tukums to visit our French friends from December. Howeeever, Diana from the Youth House got sick and tested positive for Covid. We hadn’t seen her in a few days, but both of us had sore throats, so we decided not to risk getting Tituan and Julliette sick. Instead, I did card readings on Friday and Saturday. I love that more people are trusting me for this, and on Sunday, Olena and I went to a small village nearby because I liked its name – Rude. On our way there, we stopped by the Saint Ana Lutheran Church to enjoy the Sunday sermons. They were beautiful. In Rude, we went to look at a closed well-preserved windmill and stared at some motionless cows, who were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Our Sunday walk filled me with the sense of endless possibilities.

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Fourth week (24 – 30.01.2022)

The time had come for me to participate in the on-arrival training! Yes, I’ve been in Latvia for almost two months now, but what can you do? Bureaucracy. It’s online, so I couldn’t meet the other volunteers in person, however, we made a group chat and began planning a skiing trip near Riga. 

The three-day training itself was alright, too long to sit in front of my computer (yeah, I’m a writer and spend most of my time in front of it…) but our facilitator was super chill about having frequent breaks. Most of the topics I’ve discussed in my time in Romania or have learned about from my experience living abroad. 

On Tuesday, I did a breathwork session, which helped me let go of certain people and of some illusions I had about myself – before that I hadn’t admitted to myself how strong I got attached to old versions of myself and of the need to need others, wow. After I went dancing at the beach, I invited Jekabs over to play board games (paldies for bringing them, Jekabs!!) with me and Olena. We had a lot of fun, and they made a mistake by letting me play my music. It has been a dream of mine to listen to the music I enjoy with friends, so that was amazing, but as the alcohol increased, my songs progressively flowed to retro Bulgarian pop-folk… until I was giving them a dance show 😀 As a considerate host, I kept checking if Olena and Jekabs were having fun, which they were, and Olena even took a video of me enjoying myself. 

After that much fun, I somehow stayed awake through the last day of the training, which is also when I discovered the amazing falafel burger at Street Burgers!! If any of you ever come to Liepaja, try them, they’re mouth-wateringly good. 

On Thursday, I sat down with Ance and Olena and discussed some communication issues we’d been having – we’d not get the information meant for us, and we didn’t know who was responsible for talking with us. I love that she took our feedback with an open mind, and we immediately saw the change when she proactively informed us that thanks to the new Covid measures, we have to do self-tests till the end of February. Because the cases here are rising, not a lot of people are coming by the Youth House these days.

Friday I spent at the icon exhibition in Liepaja’s museum with Elina, followed by a walk and bubble waffles with LT. :3 

On the weekend, Olena and I got tickets for an international trip with Olena in March * – * Let’s see if we’ll be able to go. 

Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually throughout the month

As I prefaced this article, January has mainly been a month of rest and introspection. The four main insights from my introspection, inner child and shadow work are:

– Sitting with your emotions, when you’ve repressed most of them for a long time, is so darn difficult, yet it yields fruits in the form of calmness, awareness, and expanded capacity for joy. 

– Discovering I’m scared of continuity and of developing strong connections over time, that have no expiration date nor an end-goal. I tend to decide when to leave a relationship as a form of me trying to take control over life, and it just doesn’t work like that. Patience is a virtue that’d be good for me to practice and hone, especially when it comes to other people.

– My bravery comes from my thoughts. I was scared of walking home alone in the dark for the past few years because of a scary encounter, but you know what? I fought that guy off, and I can handle myself well enough, so I began going on solitary walks in the dark. On the 31st, I went on a walk alone around 9 pm and got to enjoy the snowing night sky. 

– I struggle with accepting attention, especially when I deserve it, when it’s in recognition of something that I am good at. I self-sabotage when things go well, thanks to a skill of mine. Looking for ways to accept and heal that part of me. I don’t want to be praised for my achievements because I am afraid of people turning against me/bullying me when I do good. I am afraid of showing off because of the possible negative reaction from others, and even positive attention is triggering me to stop doing whatever is bringing me positive outcomes. Now that awareness of this is achieved, let’s see how I’ll work through this in the following months. 

As for the resting part, I was re-discovering my passion for Latin American literature from the 20th century (specifically, Gabriel Garcia Marques and Isabel Allende) – now I want to write letters and I am gathering ideas as to what to write in them… if you want one, dm me your address, and I’ll do my best to send you one 😉 Or if you want to send me oneeee – same thing, but I’ll tell you my address 😀 If you have recommendations for similar literature, please share them with me.

Throughout the month I got to virtually hang out or chat with my friends and family, even my little brother called me a couple of times. He’s such a cutie. I feel truly grateful for my circle of friends. <3 

Something I was exploring from a cultural perspective was the concept of chivalry. More precisely, what is Latvian chivalry? If I am out somewhere in the evening in Bulgaria or the Netherlands with people I know, regardless of whether they are acquaintances or friends, someone would usually offer to walk me home. The trend is declining, but it’s still there. Here, no one even thinks about it – as I learned from my mentor, Latvia is perceived to be very safe, which makes worrying whether someone’s gone home safely, futile. And nobody wants to walk longer in the cold and windy nights than they have to. Good thing I am learning to trust myself in the dark.

In the end…

As I was writing this text, I felt like I should be doing more fun stuff for you to read about. As if I set up expectations of an action-packed year, but this year is mostly for me. It will be full of introspection, self-reflection, and spiritual/personal growth as much as it’ll be filled with action, exploration, and adventure. Just letting you know that I never know what my month is going to look like – there are times when opportunities and new things come along daily, and then there is the lull after them, so I can reflect and learn from the intensive period. Everything moves in cycles 😇 See you around the 15th of March, when I’ll be sharing how my February went!

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