Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh, the Irony

It's been a kind of strange week. I was working on several projects for school and the Triangle (which I guess is technically school too, but doesn't really feel like it). Atop that, I had a two day trip to Atlanta in the middle of the week to meet with the mission agency I'll be working with this summer. One of the projects I finished just before I left was this little piece that I did of "Barbarian Wars," a campus event that they do every spring here. The video is cheesy, but then, considering that the event consists of people in cardboard armor attacking each other with eggs while music from Gladiator and Halo 3 plays in the background, I decided that to try and have the video not be cheesy would be journalistic dishonesty ;)  

While in Atlanta, our group also visited a Hindu Temple and a Mosque, where we spent a couple hours talking to a representative from some Islamic group in Atlanta. Both were interesting. I was a little disoriented on the way back though, as I kept thinking of how while I had obviously completely disagreed with both of them, neither had disturbed or offended me as much as the church I visited last Sunday. At first I wondered if that was a problem.... but I now I think it probably isn't. I may just have an overdeveloped sense of irony.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Here is some more personal, vlog style video from Latvia. Of the three video projects I wanted to get done this weekend this was my last priority, but due to the Mac Lab being locked, it is the only one I finished. Enjoy: 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Skeleton Bones

Sometimes I feel like work and stress are all really relative. For instance, this semester has been really intense, and I was completely ready for spring break to come when it did. But then, my spring break obviously ended up being crazy, and even more intense than the semester so far. Getting back to work on Monday, it almost felt relaxing, even though it's still just about as bad as it was before the break. So who knows? Would be a good I idea to always have a stressful spring break?

On the down side, I finally caught the illness that everyone else was getting in Latvia. It's not terrible so far, but not fun either. That combined with some fund raising set backs (or rather deadlines I didn't know about) have had me feeling a little overwhelmed for the last 48 hours or so....

I did do something really fun on Wednesday, right before I came down with the cold. I went to see John Mark McMillan in Chattanooga. It was really, really good... probably the 2nd best concert I've ever been at.

Monday, March 14, 2011

In the House of the Flying Frog

Back in the U.S. now.  The trip back was remarkably good––at least as far as I was concerned. There were a couple mishaps: I almost got thrown up on, and two people in the group lost their luggage. Somehow I made it back safely though, and even enjoyed the flights for the most part... especially the last one from Chicago. We flew right past the skyline at sunset, and it was one of the more beautiful things I've seen. We left from Riga airport, and the evening before we toured the city with Mark, the missionary we were staying with. Below are some pictures of the city, which I really liked. The architecture reminded me a lot of Austria, but with some more modern elements (and ancient elements too) mixed in.

Out front of the train station.

Latvia & the EU

On a bridge in a park. A spot popular with lovers.

At The Flying Frog - an awesome restaurant.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cities and [Sleepless] Nights

Well, it's been a crazy week... perhaps the craziest ever. Steve and I got our film completed... by the skin of our teeth. It was stressful and I pulled my first all-nighter in longer than I can remember. I met some really cool people along the way though, and I think the girls that we did the movie for enjoyed it, which was really the point.

I also toured Cēsis, where they have a Castle, an art museum, and cappuccinos that rival anything I had in Italy. Below are some pictures from that: 
The castle... and me under a bridge.

Good old Lenin... lost his place in the town square in 1991 and is now in a huge box behind the castle.
Looking down an alley in downtown Cēsis.
Some fried pike that I ate at this delightful little traditional Latvian restaurant in the middle of one of their national forest areas.
After the award ceremony for the films, which was stressful... as only one of the films was technically completed at the beginning (the rest were all in different stages of rendering and were finished as the show was going) and there were about 200 people there, we went back to the church and hung out with the kids until about 3AM... meaning that my sleepless night of editing with Steve nearly became two sleepless nights.

This morning we said goodbye to Limbaži and headed for Riga. We spent the afternoon touring the historic part of the city, which was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of Austria. The train into the city was interesting as I had a drunk Latvian man fall asleep in my lap. Yes, you read that right, but I'm far to tired right now to go into details... so you'll have to ask me later.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Boundaries of Language

It's been quite the experience so far. On Monday morning we went into the schools. This was relatively intimidating at first, since we were basically set up in front of a class of Latvian students with the general direction to answer questions about America and try to help them improve their English. The first class was kind of tough, as the students weren't very talkative. It all improved from there, and by the third class I was actually starting to enjoy it.  

That afternoon the kids arrived at the church to start the film project. I was teamed up with Steve, a film major from Bryan, to work on a movie for a group of 15 year old Latvian girls. The way it is supposed to work is the kids write a script and then we help them turn it into a movie. The girls, however, only had a vague idea what they wanted to do, so I soon found myself in the middle of the sanctuary surrounded by five or six fifteen year old girls chattering in Latvian and and questionable English and typing down ideas to try to come up with a coherent story. It was definitely one of those surreal "Is this really happening?" experiences.  

Today we got our first real start on filming, which was fun, although the girls kept changing things that they wanted to do. It looks like the rest of the filming won't be done till tomorrow night when we have an appointment to come to one of the girl's teacher's house to film something.

The living situation has been a bit of an adventure so far. I've only had one [cold] shower so far since we left the U.S, and the room we all sleep in is heated by a fireplace, which I would be used to from home, except that it only holds enough wood to last for about 45 minutes. So as an alternative to waking up every 45 minutes, I've gotten used to sleeping in about as many clothes as I wear in the day time.

Today after we got done with filming I took a walk around Limbažu and looked at some of the old churches and things, which are beautiful. It was then that I took most of these pictures.
Tomorrow we will hopefully finish up filming. Thursday we are supposed to take a break and travel around the country a bit. There are several people in the group who feel like we are all behind on the filming and should skip the travel day to get done with the editing. I kind of agree with this, but at the same time I was really looking forward to seeing some parts of the country outside Limbaži and Riga, so it will be interesting to see what conclusion is come to.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

In Latvia

[please excuse any typos or sentences going to nowhere... I'm still a little jet-lagged] 
After a long but fortunately smooth trip, we arrived in Riga Latvia around lunch time yesterday (Latvian time). The first person we met was Janis, the pastor of the church that we were to be staying in. He took us immediately to a Latvian restaurant in the airport. I can't say that I cared for the food that much, although it could have just been because I ate quite a bit at the Frankfurt airport where we had been just a couple hours before.

I hadn't slept in more than 24 hours at this point and was feeling pretty crumby. Fortunately I was able to get my first sleep on the trip in the van on the way to Limbaži. Thus, I don't remember how long of a trip it was, but it didn't seem that far.

I woke up as we were pulling up the street toward the church, and after unpacking felt like going right back to sleep. Janis, however, had a very different idea. After eating some soup, which I still wasn't really hungry for (although it was significantly better than what I ate at the airport) we unpacked and headed off for our next destination: the house of a Latvian family, and more specifically the traditional Latvian sauna belonging to this family.

By the time we arrived it was dark––and quite cold and windy. There was more than two feet of snow on the ground, and it was starting to drift over the roads. Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that part the sauna experience was going to involve jumping in the snow and possibly jumping in the river.

When we arrived at the house we met the Latvian couple, who were really cool and ended up being fed yet again. After pizza we went to the sauna... which was a very interesting experience, and definitely made me feel like I was in Latvia. It was bigger than I expected, with an entire building dedicated to it.

Sitting inside the hardwood room with steam emanating off of the brazier full of red hot stones in a room with five other guys––several speaking in strong Baltic accents––I realized "Yes, I'm in Latvia."

Just this evening we met the kids we will be working with, and tomorrow we will go to the schools to do ESL in some of the classes. I have know idea what that's going to be like, but am letting

Friday, March 04, 2011

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.

It's hard to believe, but God willing, I'll be in Latvia within 48 hours.

My team leaves campus at 11:15 tomorrow morning for the Knoxville airport. From there we have a connecting flight to DC. Then it's across the old Atlantic Ocean to Frankfurt (where there hopefully will be no more delays from the terrorist attack there two days ago) and then on to Riga, the capital of Latvia. From there on I'm not exactly clear on what's happening, but apparently somebody from the Church in Limbaži is picking us up at some point and taking us there.

So that's the itinerary. Always subject to change of course––I understand that the last group got stranded in Holland overnight or something like that––but the itinerary it is nevertheless.

Anyhow, I've had this line from Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring going through my head for the last few days:  

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.... You step out onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to."