July for many people is the month of vacations and travels – it was for me this year, too. My experiences this month recharged and exhausted me, filled me with joy or angst, and shone a light on my mental and spiritual growth while letting me know I always have a choice. Let’s see what brought up all that…
First days (01 – 03.07)
On Friday morning, the 1st of July, I helped Elina to clean the windows at the youth house, and to organize half the closet space. In the afternoon, there was a beach day planned, which didn’t happen as the weather was wacky – it rained heavily in the morning and was hot and sunny in the afternoon, but everyone was expecting it to rain again, so no one came to the event. I kept reading the Land of Stories: A literary journey through Iceland, and in the evening Manuel and I went out with the last Erasmus students as it was their last night in Liepaja. We all had dinner at Hesburger, watching rally drivers go by us, as there was a big international rally next to Liepaja. After that, we went to Fountaine – a bar with a terrace, where we sat outside with smoke coming in from every direction. I couldn’t take it.
Thankfully, the bar was close to the canal, which is where the wind was blowing, and fewer people were smoking on the benches facing the water. I said bye to everyone around midnight before heading to the beach club with Manuel, where we didn’t stay for too long thanks to a sudden downpour. We got a Bolt scooter and decided to be rebels by taking only one for the two of us, only to be stopped by police about 2 minutes later. I am so, so grateful that the officers let us off with a warning after they wrote down our ID info. That’s it for me on trying to do ‘harmless, kind of illegal but fun’ things.
I was planning on going to a nature reserve close to Liepaja on Saturday, but the weather disagreed with my plans – this resulted in a day, spent curled inside with my book. I did, however, get wet when I went to do some grocery shopping during a rain pause and forgot my umbrella.
Sunday I enjoyed the nice weather on a walk in the park with Jekabs and with solitary writing.
First week (04 – 10.07)
On the 4th of July, I didn’t sleep as I was overstimulated by the noise Manuel was making when he came home late and started cooking, which led to both of us being frustrated and getting into a fight. When I fight with someone, I cannot sleep, so I didn’t. I waited for him to wake up at 7 after I couldn’t wake him up at 6 am to talk, which we did and everything got resolved very quickly and effortlessly. This day I learned that I can go to Sigulda the same day and check in at the hotel the night before my midterm training, so I went to say bye to Manuel at the Innovation and Science Center (ZIIC), where he was helping at a chemistry camp for kids. I got to help with the last experiment, which was a volcano one 🤩 Right after we finished, I caught my bus to Riga. In Riga, I went to the train station because I wanted to experience Latvian trains – they are spacious and old with digital ticket scanning conductors and their toilets are only open when passing through green areas. At my end station, Livio saw me, so we went together to the hotel, checked in, and took a walk around Sigulda in search of food. We found an open Maxima (Latvian supermarket), and some great views.
The 5th of July was a full day – I woke up early and wanted to go on a walk but was feeling quite tired, so instead I read some more of the Land of stories. I met new people, volunteers in different parts of Latvia, learned about their projects and stories, walked on a slack line, and tried to hike up to a castle with a new friend – the walk took us over the river Gauja, and because we didn’t have enough time, we didn’t reach our destination. Maybe I should get more active, though, so I can climb hundreds of stairs without needing so many breaks 🙆😂
The food at the restaurant was delicious and very visually appealing 🤤 In the evening, we went to a viewpoint with all training participants, meditated in a sling circle, and played a very active game. Then one of the trainers, my new friend, and I went to pick up my roommate from the highway bus stop, and I got to hang out with some more people before I went to bed.
The 6th of July consisted of fun ice-breakers, creating and presenting a visual representation of our projects in the form of heartbeats, and listening to some interesting and intense stories. We moved 2 tables to ours for lunch, so 8 people ate together 😂 We learned and discussed some stuff about the Youthpass before we paired up and did a mentor session. We talked about the time right before we each went to Latvia, the present moment, and what’s going to happen in 6 months.
The next day there was an idea market & planning of collaboration ideas, then we said goodbye to half of the group. The rest of us drew a veery abstract picture together and had lunch, which was delicious once again. I ate quickly, so I could catch my earliest train, where a baby was crying. I had enough time to catch the bus from Riga to Liepaja, during which a couple played a random instrument just as I began nodding off. I saw a dude peeing on a stop, and a bunch of storks again (on my way to Sigulda there were 4 in the fields). Manuel was sweet enough to make me pasta for dinner and lunch the next day, we caught up, and I rested.
On the 8th, I went with Manuel to the Innovation and Science Center (ZIIC) to help in the chemistry camp for kids. We prepared and carried out a bunch of experiments: some for show, others for play. I had my hand burn and made slime, which got me very excited! Manuel spent the whole week there with the kids, so when we were finished, Justine – the organizer, asked him for and gave him feedback. After that, we went to the youth house for a meeting with our mentors to plan some activities for our free days at the end of July. I also sat down with Elina and gave her a quick update on how my midterm training went and my insights from it.
In the evening, Manuel and I switched rooms, so he can come home whenever he wants to without disturbing my sleep, which was something we talked about a few times, but the idea was met with resistance from Manuel’s side, as he said I would be loud in the mornings. I was anxious about someone passing by me in my sleep at an unknown time and was upset about it as Manuel gave me a 5-hour notice that he’ll go out but 2 hours before he went out I asked him if he’ll be back after 10, and he got upset that I didn’t let him tell me that – I did not want to tell him about my anxiety, but he asked without taking ‘I don’t want to talk’ for an answer. So, we switched and ended up not talking at all.
I spent the weekend in Aizpute with Charlotte, where we talked, danced a bit, cried a loot, then some more, and yelled. Her family owns a few humanitarian buildings, one of which stores a lot of donated clothing from the 40s-50s – we went through some of it in an effort to explore my personal style. We had a lot of fun dressing up, she gifted me a few pieces that she no longer wears, and I came home with a clearer idea of the image I want to present to the world, and some clothing to start doing that.
On Sunday, I met her son, who’s three, and we played with dinosaur toys. I found a self-worth affirmations video that I liked, and I began listening to it every morning, starting from this day.
Second week (11 – 17.07)
Monday morning I went back to Liepaja. I did a few house chores before I went to the Youth House, where I edited the IG video of my midterm training (reel embed) and when I was done with it, I went on a walk to enjoy the sun. Throughout the day I was ignoring Manuel as I needed to distance myself from him to get over my feelings – he brought it up in the late afternoon, we talked a bit, and then he went to the gym. He returned with two frozen pizzas as he said he wants to enjoy the time we will be volunteering together, and it’s my choice if we’ll be friends or not. For him, I’m special and more than a friend, which is apparent to me by the way he’s acting towards me. My icy exterior fell crashing down, and I caved in.
On Tuesday, Elina had planned a somewhat-mentoring trip for me and Manu to Karosta’s prison and a battlefield, called Redans. The trip included museum visits at both places and a one-hour walk in each direction between the prison and the battlefield, as well as loads and loads of information. I found the amount of history and reflection overwhelming for one day. It was a beautiful walk though, and we had a task to take 5 pictures symbolizing the past and 5, symbolizing the future.
Wednesday was a day, typical of a full moon – quite emotional as I was getting back to handling my emotions on my own, without relying on Manuel. We did some work at the Youth House with him, and planned to watch the HBO Chernobyl miniseries after work, but he couldn’t find it for free that evening.
On Thursday, I went to the Liepaja prison again with a second lesson, consisting of two games: Hot Seat and Simon Says. We reviewed food vocabulary and I taught the inmates the names of body parts – it was interesting to see how much they enjoyed the games. I also had fun while teaching and on the way back, the security guard escorting me thought I speak Latvian, so he was explaining how do I get out of the prison in Latvian… he had to walk me through everything when I confessed, embarrassed, that I didn’t understand anything of what he said 😀 At the Youth House, we had guests from a children’s English camp, for which we prepared some activities and games – the camp leader had originally texted Manuel on Instagram to ask if he was willing to talk to the kids about his home country and if he knows other foreigners that would be up for that as a paid opportunity; then she texted the Youth House to ask if we could provide activities for the kids for about an hour. In short, I earned some cash that day by talking about myself and about Bulgaria after playing games with the kids 😀 In the evening, my Bulgarian class fell through, so we watched Chernobyl with my housemate.
Friday morning, after another attempt of Manuel’s to be close to me, I couldn’t take it anymore – he says he wants to take care of me and enjoys acting like a boyfriend, which I see as him playing me. We share the same living space, and it’s tiring to avoid someone you have feelings for, but you know are not compatible with. It feels like all the responsibility for both of our experiences in Latvia is on me, but I am only responsible for how I act and react to outside circumstances. I need the emotional and relational distance, so I got my ice suit back on, shut my mouth, finished the Land of Stories: A literary journey through Iceland book, and had an enjoyable surprise call from a friend. In the afternoon, we went together to do some grocery shopping for Manuel’s Meme Party, when he tried talking to me about my ‘weird’ behavior. I refused to respond. We prepared some games and our meme outfits with printed originals on our necks, then waited for the whole 2 people that showed up! Yay! Card games and a shoe-grabbing competition followed – it wasn’t a bad get-together. My evening finished with Jekabs’ concert near the canal, where the wind chilled me to the bone. The good music was enough to keep me there the entire time, though.
This weekend was nothing spectacular – rest, hanging out with Manuel (we finished the Chernobyl series, which was amazing, I recommend you check it out!), and began reading a compilation of texts on spirituality, written by female authors, called Of women and angels. A fantastic read from the first page and very on-brand for me. On Saturday I went on a walk to the Liepaja Lake reserve, from where I posted an Instagram post in June and spent some time organizing a trip to Cesis and Valmiera for the following week with Alrun and Livio.
Third week (18 – 24.07)
Monday began a bit off, as I couldn’t wake up for too long: I slept a whooping 12 hours without feeling the need for it the previous night. I did yoga, listened to and repeated my affirmations, read a bit, and cooked, before Manuel and I went to a meeting at the Youth House with a girl around our age, who was asking for help in organizing a Dance Battle. The idea excited me, we took notes, and later that same day Ance found some volunteers, who’d like to help in making the event happen. We’ll likely plan it close to Halloween. After the meeting and hanging out a bit with Ance, I went to do groceries, where I met a cool American retiree, and we talked for a bit over an hour. He’s formed a pretty big community of English speakers in Liepaja – they meet up, hang out, go to events together, and now I also get to be part of it! Yaay!
I took it easy on Tuesday – leisurely packed my bag for Wednesday and Thursday, read Of women and angels, and relaxed.
Wednesday began at 5.40 am as I had a bus to catch at 6.30 to Riga: I spent this and the following day with Alrun and Livio in Valmiera and Cesis in the Northern part of Latvia. We met in Riga, shopped a bit in Valmiera, and explored the town and its medieval castle ruins before we headed to the student dorms, which were turned into a summer hostel, where we enjoyed each other’s company.
On Thursday, we woke up relatively early but talked for close to two hours, so we managed to reach Cesis at 11 instead of at the planned time of 9.40. And boy, we really should have gone there earlier!! There is so much to see in Cesis – medieval and new castles, wonderful museums (there was one on Nordic Medicinal Plants!!) and exhibitions. In the medieval incredibly well-preserved ruins, you could go inside the pitch-black dungeon with a lantern! A Real One!! I was on top of the world in that castle complex: they had a botanical garden with plants and herbs that were common in the region 500 years ago and a booth with medieval games. On the way from Cesis to Liepaja, I missed my connection in Riga because of a traffic jam, lost 10 bucks but got to talk with a friend of mine and with my cousin on the phone, yay! Manuel picked me up from the bus station as I arrived at 21.30 and made dinner for us, so sweet!
Friday was another early day as our mentors had planned a trip with me and Manuel to Puseni hills, where we found an aaawesome swing!
Then we went to a nature reserve with wild horses and cows, so we looked at them from afar, observed the skeletal remains of a wild horse, 2 cows, and one cow carcass, all while we were enjoying the quiet. Our next stop was a sacrificial stone in a sacred forest, close to which was an old school. There Manuel and I wrote letters to our future selves for 2 weeks before we leave Latvia. We ended our adventure in a Latvian cafe-restaurant for some late lunch – I learned that kefir tastes almost the same as airyan even if they are made in two different ways. I am beginning to enjoy kvas a lot as well 😀 In the afternoon, I saw the Radi Vidi Pats’ (the green NGO that Manuel’s mentor volunteers at) community garden for the first time. Manuel’s mentor asked if we want to go on a hike on Monday and Tuesday with a Youth Exchange, hosted by Radi Vidi Pats, and I got excited, so I started planning how to get a tent. Later that day, we saw that Manuel got a tick bite, which made him completely refuse the idea of joining me on the hike.
Saturday was Charlotte’s birthday – in the evening I went out with Manuel and the American from Monday, and we met Charlotte and her friends. I didn’t stay long though because the party scene had too many smokers and I lacked the energy to move around.
On Sunday was my cousin’s birthday 😀 I texted her a happy birthday and got busy helping Manuel with some chores. In the afternoon, we went to the Nature House in Liepaja, from where there was a beautiful view over the canal. I really enjoyed the walk and scenery. ^^
Fourth week (25 – 31.07)
On Monday I went to pick up a tent from the Youth House for the Radi Vidi Pats hike, however, I had realized by that point that my bravery in going on this experience might be more on the reckless side than on the adventurous. I didn’t know anyone from the organizers, nor from the participants, I had no clue where we’d walk through, had never been hiking or camping before, and didn’t have a sure way to get back home on Tuesday evening (I had plans for Wednesday morning, but it turned out that the hiking group will go home on Wednesday morning instead of on Tuesday evening as Manuel’s mentor told me). Sure, I am working on going more with the flow, but I have also learned to put my safety first before any potential fun, and this situation entailed too many unknowns for me to comfortably let go. Instead, I used the day to connect with myself and rest after all the travel and social activities of the previous week.
Tuesday I wrote again for Confessions of a woman in love – it was a very emotionally-charged chapter that I’ve been avoiding for the last 2 months, but I did it! Along with some groceries, I sat down to connect with my heart and write a love letter to myself. It was a fun day of slowing down, resting, and some pampering. <3
On Wednesday I had 3 meetings scheduled: at 9 am, at 2, and at 7 pm. My first one got postponed indefinitely, but the others happened. At 2, Manuel and I got the program for the children’s camp on 01 – 05.08 that we’ll be helping with and were warned that it might not happen as only 5 kids had signed up. The evening meeting was to talk over and plan the Dance Battle event, mentioned in the Third week of this article. It went well, there are three other volunteers besides Manuel and me. Overall a very chill day – before and in-between meetings I cooked, watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and had a short call with my brother and grandma.
Thursday I had a short mentor meeting with Elina in the morning, after which I had another free day of rest and joy with myself. <3 A few friends texted me and I hung out with my mom on the phone – Manuel found a job for the day, so he was gone, and I had the house to myself. He also accepted to work a few more days with a place to sleep, thus giving me the opportunity for solitude until Sunday.
On Friday my recharge continued. I wrote, meditated, cooked, watched Disney’s Atlantis, one of my favorites, and then found out there’s a sequel!! So, I watched that 😀 Between the movies though, I got a surprise – Olena texted me she’s in Liepaja! We went on a short walk as her schedule was packed, trying to see everyone and enjoy the Summer Sound Festival. She’s doing well, taking a much-needed break here. It was a nice warm and sunny day. Some other friends also texted to catch up. I’m so grateful for all the people in my life. <3
Saturday I did some house chores and thought about how I wanted to be in Lithuania this week, but the plans fell through – this proved to me for the umpteenth time that when something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, something better is coming. The off days I’ve been taking are not only for my social battery renewal but also the start of building my morning routine and preparation for hitting the gym in August. I got to talk with Charlotte and support her in her spiritual journey before I went and danced my way through frying some delicious zucchini for dinner. 🤤 My evening finished with a nice read of Of women and angels.
Can you guess how Sunday went? 😀 More chores (the same as the previous days), wrote a little, did yoga, read Paid to be you by Vanessa Hallick, and worked on some things from it, then found a cool new book Way of the Peaceful Warrior online and ended up reading half or maybe 1/3 of it in a day. Olena came by to pick up some camping stuff her mentor lent us in February. In the afternoon, I went on a short walk to the sea in a cute red body-con dress, enjoying the beautiful weather. Manuel came back from his work trip around 19.30 or so, so we hung out in the evening and had dinner together.
Emotionally, spiritually, and mentally throughout the month
July was a month of biiig realizations and introspection, most of which I’m keeping private for now. Not only is it the middle of my year in Latvia, but it marks the last 3 months before my birthday – astrologically speaking, this period of time is when a lot of growth and shifts happen. It’s the perfect time to release so that you’re ready for the new that will come after your birthday. I began writing the Confessions again, which had its own Aha-moments. Charlotte and Manuel helped me and supported me with my style insecurities and changing the way I dress.
Finding a new normal with Manuel – me releasing him and enjoying his company as he offers it. We are still very close and flirt a lot, which was overwhelmingly difficult at the beginning of the month, by the end of it, I began enjoying it without the strings, or so I thought. I am not in a place where I desperately want a relationship, but I am also not okay with acting as if I am in one when my partner doesn’t want us to be together. I found out how much I truly enjoy my own company and how much I still haven’t found out about myself as I’ve been entangled with others since I was 14. Basically, with all of my exes, I’d stopped writing and this is a big part of me that I’ve been ignoring in exchange for attention from my love interests. With the push-pull between Manuel and me, I am exploring more of what I do and don’t want from my partner.
Another thing I began in July and finished in August was writing out a life review – I compiled a list of questions about the past and present and set out to answer them as truthfully as I could. That was a rather eye-opening exercise.
At the end of the month, I decided to try finding a mentor to support me with my spiritual journey – on the 1st of August I had my first day in a ‘Master’s program’ led by a Bulgarian spiritual writer, who resonated with me and shares my core ideas.
It was a fun month. I wonder what will August in Latvia bring. 👀 Find out by checking in here around the 15th of September!