Latvia. An Insider’s view from Outside.

I was not born yesterday. I was born in Latvia. It is a small, clever country. Small because it is surrounded by big countries who each took a slice from it. Clever because despite being small it is still on maps, after all the wars, take-overs and occupations. I talk about history of Latvia in “Rocks In My Pockets”, so you’ll have to wait till the film comes out to find my take on it.

To interpret history means to define one’s current politics. Politics are very specific causes burning in each individual’s heart. When in New York, I find myself standing center – left. It means I am for contraceptives and I am against Big Fracking Business taking over my individual rights to clean, inflammable New York tap water.

But, surprisingly, in Latvia I find myself standing center – right. My recent visit coincided with the National Referendum which called Latvia’s citizens to decide if they wanted one official language (the current one: Latvian) or two (Latvian and Russian). Just like any burning political passions in any country in this world, the flames were fanned by Big Money. The money for the language issue in Latvia were coming from East – Russia, which has never reconciled with Latvia’s escape from it’s economic, political and military grasp in 1991.

But Big Money aside, why would I prefer to keep Latvian as the one official language in Latvia? Yes, there is something inside me you can call a national pride, that strong sense of identity as a Latvian (although genetically I, like most Latvians, am a European mutt – mix of German, Polish, Gipsy, Swedish, Latvian blood). But, surprisingly, that is not the reason. My reasoning for keeping only one language is coming from Tea Party books. Documents are expensive – translation, paper, printing cost money. Having to fill out documentation in two languages would break most of small businesses that are already  struggling. The government’s legal paperwork would have be filed in two languages, too. Imagine what a burden it would be on the small country’s budget! Only to cater to the small percentage of the people who don’t speak Latvian fluently (out of 44 per cent of Latvia’s non-Latvians only 10 per cent are not fluent in Latvian). Necessary everyday stuff (medicine, food, hygiene products) already has labeling in 3, sometimes 5 languages.

How will I make this right leaning view compatible with my defense of contraceptives (free for everyone!) and dislike for Big Business (get out of my water!) ? I guess, I have to live in one country but be just a tourist in another….

Lets see some tourist pics from Latvia. Beehives hibernate wrapped warmly in snow:

Griddle’s heat is off and it is dozing under the heap of snow, too:

Latvians are keen on hunting, but for food, not just for fun. When they kill a wild boar, they use it all: the meat, the fat, the intestines (yes, Latvians eat liver, kidneys, and boil lung soup for their dogs). Even the skins are used – as rugs. Before the skins are taken to tannery, they are hang for hungry birds to scrub off the remains of fat. Who said birds are vegetarians?

If you are in Latvia in wintertime, you’ll inevitably hear talks about icicles – that they form on the houses with poor insulation, that they kill people on streets in Riga in spring, that they are delicious, they are poisonous, they are beautiful. Here’s a sample of a delicious killer icicle:

Fishing doesn’t fall far behind from hunting in popularity. Combine that with cold and you get some hardy characters who find plenty of time and will to sit for hours looking at a small hole in ice:

Believe it or not, modern technology has reached Latvia. Here one can see the latest models of any machine. But Latvians have a collective passion for making things on their own. Women knit and make clothes. Men make machines that move. If this make-it-yourself energy could be harvested, Latvia would have a strong car making industry. For now, it has to be content with the moving devices that cannot get a permission to drive on the roads (Latvia also has strong traffic rules and regulations), like this:

Finally, a tourist is fascinated by the wooden shacks found by almost every house.

– What an archaic structure! – the tourist says and takes a picture. It doesn’t occur to the tourist that the structure has very practical use. A lot of Latvians heat their houses with wood (wood being available, reliable and cheap source of energy). They bring the logs in the fall, saw and split them and store the firewood in the wooden shacks, as wooden shacks allow the air come in and out and dry the woods for the best burning. To me, the shacks are cinematic, like Rome or Audrey Hepburn :

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About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
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