Epistle 1

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MAY 9, 2007

Latvia 1 Epistle



Reporting in – We have arrived safe and sound.

Our trip started with safe arrivals for both of us at PDX.  With a bit of a mix-up with our seating, you all would be proud of me, I walked in complete faith and with no fear (and a prayer) up to the counter and simply said, “We are traveling together and we need to sit together.”  They worked really hard to make sure that we had seats together both on the first leg to Frankfurt and then on the SAS to Riga.

One of our first surprises was that when Kathy got off her flight from Redmond and we were walking down the concourse, she looked down and said, “Do we have the same shoes on?”  And yes, in fact we did.  We both had bought the same shoes, same color.  We laughed – we are so much alike at times. (PS:  Connie R. – they were the ones you helped me pick out on Sunday.)

It was absolutely amazing to see the Sunrise as we went over the polar route.  It was the most gorgeous orange red.  We could see Greenland and then we flew over England,Scotland,Wales,Ireland, and again were able to see them.  I jokingly asked Kathy if she could see the White Cliffs of Dover.

We didn’t get lost in the airport atFrankfurt- as a matter of fact I simply asked one of the Lufthansa attendants if the tram we were in line for got us to the gate we needed.  We double checked the departure screens to be sure the gate hadn’t been changed and off we went.  We walked at great length to the tram and then from the tram to our gate.  We are talking a long walk which is what we really needed after being on the first leg for 10.5 hours.

All I could think about was that we had 2.5 hours of another flight but a good proportion of our plane were going on to Singapore and India which was another 10.5 hour flight if not  more.  Wonderful to see the many different countries represented at the Frankfurt Airport.  We saw East Indian women in their saris, Hassidic Jews with locks, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, etc. as it is a main hub for Lufthansa.

Our biggest surprise came when we walked into the area to catch our next flight and were assaulted with the smoke.  We are so spoiled that our public buildings are smoke free and here of course they are not.  We looked through a German newspaper that had been left on one of the seats and read all the ads.  Maybe I should say we looked at the ads because we certainly couldn’t read them.  Then we quickly boarded onto a bus to get to the airplane that was waiting on the tarmac.  After getting seated, we waited for a long time.  The pilot finally came on and said that two people who had checked in their baggage but had not boarded the plane so their luggage had to be taken off.  No body – no luggage goes unclaimed.

When you fly into Riga, you fly over the Baltic Sea and you get to see this long, long white sanded beach.  It reminded me of the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington.  We will go there before we leave.  Upon arriving in Riga, we followed the crowd and got through customs without a hitch.  The waiting area where your family/friends pick you up is one-way glass.  We could see Bruce and Kim but they couldn’t see us.  We could have stood there for a long time making faces and such, but to tell you the truth, we were ready to see Bruce and Kim and receive our long awaited hugs.  Bruce and Kim were waiting for us with bouquets of beautiful tulips.  It is the tradition here to greet people with flowers.  Kim took a good picture of us outside the Riga airport so it shows behind us.    We had a wonderful lunch in Riga and then did some shopping and brief site seeing.  The architecture is marvelous.  Everything from very modern Vancouver BC style apartment buildings, to buildings built in the 1890’s.

We had been warned by the American Consulate to not be in Riga on Wednesday as it was Victory Day when they celebrate their independence and they were expecting marches by  many groups at the Freedom Monument.  So, of course, we went right by it.  The different groups and individual citizens had laid rows and rows and rows and rows (do you get the picture) of flowers at the base.  They were about 200 feet deep in flowers from the base back toward the street.

We shopped at a shopping mall because it has the grocery store in it (so strange a concept) and you saw everything from Nordstrom, Gucci, level stores, to Sushi Bars, to what I would call Target.

Then it was off to Elkor where we purchased the remaining sewing machines.  This was one of the greatest blessings as our prayers for 10 machines was fulfilled.  It was interesting as we were approached by a young salesman and when he asked which machine we wanted and we told him four, his eyes opened wide and said, four, and he got all excited.  We had to go to two of the Elkor stores to get the machines as they don’t carry mass quantities.  Still, we know that we had made that youngman’s day by him being able to sell us four.

We headed for Ergli and that is when it really set in.  If you think we have fast drivers and crazy drivers here, you have seen nothing.  When Kathy went to her Immunization Clinic and when I went to mine, they both told us that we probably didn’t need to worry about getting Hepatitis as much as we needed to be worried about being in a car accident.  These people here are crazy.  The open road means that at times people will pass just as you are coming up toward a vehicle and they make the center line (roads are narrow) as if it is a third lane and pass between the vehicle they are passing (usually a truck) and you coming toward them.  AAAACCCCKKKKKKK.

We saw a castle silhouetted against the darkening sky.  We will go back in the day light and get pictures.  It was really something even in the dark.  It was still light out at 10:30 p.m. and sun was up at 4:30 a.m.   We had a lovely dinner at a cafe’ on our way so were ready for bed when we checked in to hotel.  They supplied us with vases for our flowers so we both could enjoy them.

Third surprise – heated bathroom floor – ohhhhhhhhh – amazing.  Kathy said, “Did you know the bathroom floor is heated?”  I immediately walked in there in my stocking feet and I could have slept curled up right there on the floor it felt so lovely.  Then Kathy said, “The towel rack is also heated.”  I had never heard of such a thing, but it certainly was.

We slept well and had a traditional breakfast of a plate of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, Canadian bacon, sausage and two different kinds of cheese.  Then there was a plate with fruit (raspberries, peaches, pears, apples, oranges) with fresh yogurt that had been poured onto the plate.  The presentation was to say the least beautifully done with dusting of plate of fruit with powdered sugar and on the main dish sprigs of dill leaves.

We traveled to Madona today (where the church is that we will be serving) and what a bustling little metropolis.  On the way we got to see huge white storks with their nests.  If you think an osprey nest is big, you aint’ seen nothing yet.  These nests are incredible and you could see them feeding their young.  The cranes are white heads and bodies with black wings, and these very expressive long red legs.  No red shoes, but red legs to their toes.  I would fit right in.  It is considered good luck if you have a nesting crane on your property and especially if it chooses to roost on the pitch of your house roof.  We saw some of those on the houses.  On our way back from Madona Kathy spotted a red fox running across a field.

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous.  Sometimes you think you are in the high desert region of Oregon with pole pines and scrub brush below and then you are in this rich, fertile, rolling hill country with lake upon lake.  The ground looks really rich and Kimma says that it is with many minerals.

There of course is so much more to share, but I know this is getting long and I am sure that you have finished your cup of coffee or tea by now and need to get on to other things.

We will be sending pictures within a few days and telling more of our adventures.  Jet lag is a real bummer.

The Lord blessed us with a beautiful rainbow, rain to make us feel at home, and gorgeous blue sky with puffy clouds, all in the same day.  Thank you all for your prayers, we can really feel them.    Also for your support as we wouldn’t be here to serve without it.

More in the next few days.

As always, in His service

Leslie and Kathy