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What can your story be in the United States?

04/26/2014

I know. It’s been 112 days since my last blog

It’s been 112 days since my last blog. I have been almost 150 days in this continent now and have passed my ”100 days in America” and three and four months marks already. This is the latest statistics according to my personal calendar.

My first deadline for this blog was February - almost three months ago. But I somehow couldn't write it. I guess, because everything is happening so fast and it’s impossible to stop and summarize even the main things. Each and every day here is something completely new – people, places, emotions. Everything. And it’s getting more and more and even more with every day. I would really like to tell you how I am doing, but I can’t promise rational blog, rather – chaotic random sentences. :) But it’s probably better than nothing.

OK. Let’s try.

Times passes quickly, but slowly at the same time. Quickly – when I run from one event to another, write texts, read political documents and meet people. Slowly – when I wait for WhatsApp message from my loved ones, wait for my morning coffee to be ready or watch first spring flowers to begin to bloom in a close-up. Depends. Yes, Einstein, it’s all relative.

Past few months have been amazing, challenging and full of new impressions and life lessons. I can just repeat myself saying that this has been the best personal growth experience I have ever had and I am so grateful for that. It really is life changing. As it’s written in BAFF opening page :)

From snow blossoms to cherry blossoms

Although at the beginning people told me they don’t have winter in DC and snow can be experienced once or twice in a 10 years period.. it wasn’t exactly like that. I actually had real four months long winter with freezing cold weather, emergency snowstorms and paralyzed city life. And it was too much, I was angry and tired at some points, cause that kind of winter wasn’t supposed to be here at all! Rather back in Latvia.

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But now it’s finally over, I can wear my sunglasses and enjoy rest of my time here without snow (hopefully..).

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So, how am I doing here? Never ending progress – I think that explains everything. It is not only about professional experience, it’s about progress in all the possible ways. I try to make the best out of this – apply for different opportunities, engage in things, attend events, meet people, travel, read books, drink beer, wake up with sunrises, take challenges. I guess, my key to happiness has always been and still is living trying to fulfill myself for all 100% every day, in every aspect – professionally, academically, socially, personally.

Yale Conference – where PhD is just a small drop in the ocean

In the middle of March I went to my first, international academic conference – Yale Conference on Baltic and Scandinavian Studies. At first I was suprised that people took me seriously enough to confirm for the conference. But I felt honored, of course. Therefore the pressure before conference was even higher, especially when I started to google other participants that seemed really serious, with million academic degrees and published books. But I didn’t have a choice anymore and tried to prepare normally for it. But the feeling was a bit like waiting for a dentist appointment – when you know you have to do it and it’s good for your health, but still want to run away.

In the end it was even better than I expected. I think that’s the theme that saved me. Taking into account everything that is happening in world politics now, soft power and ice hockey, Latvia and Russian influence was a really interesting topic to talk about. Of course, as usually, I used all my presentation time and even got stopped by the organizers that said twice ”it’s time to finish”, but I felt happy that I had so much to say about the theme. Afterwards we had a good discussion and people perceived my presentation positively.

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After +/- 24 minutes soft power speech - feeling tired and happy among my panel colleagues from Baltics who also spoke about Russian - related issues

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Yale wisdom symbol - Harkness Tower

IMG_3136and impressive Beinecke Library - one of the World's largest libraries, full of rare books

Yale was a great experience and I met so many interesting, intelligent and ambitious people from all around the world! This was also one of those enriching experiences when I broadened my horizons and understood that there are so, so much to do. It is so good to step out of everyday life path, meet people and compare perceptions of life. Then you understand that your one or two degrees or one or two achievements in life are really nothing. There are so many passionate and purposeful people and ideas out there, we can just learn from them and keep up the hard work to improve ourselves.

What’s the main conclusion? Although I sweared that there won’t be any studies after finishing my Master’s, now I feel pretty confident about taking PhD or another Master’s somewhere. You just can’t stop. It’s almost like going backwards. At least for me. The main thing is to find your own way – the life you are satisfied with. And this is another challenge I am getting ready for.

 Enriching in different States

The end of March was again awesome. All people from Baltics and other countries that are having their professional internships in the U.S. met in a beautiful place called Savannah, Georgia. We were about 40 people and spent almost a week together – getting to know each other, attending different events and lectures, and drinking wine and other liquids, of course. Weather was nice, everyone – happy. What more do we need? Great time there. Quick recap:

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IMG_3437Enjoying company and getting creative @Savannah College of Art and Design

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and this is where Forest Gump used to sit 

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We were so inspired by the American Vanšu tilts we found in Savannah that couldn't resist drinking few beers in the moonlight there - talking about Latvia, our plans and this surreal home bridge feeling Summ1Our amazing latvians-only company exploring some of the best rancho places in area

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of course, life is great when you are surrounded by so many cool people and blossoms everywhere

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Is the trip already over? No, please, we should go somewhere else! And we rented Latvian - Estonian team car and drove all the way to New Orleans. Don't want to repeat myself, but seriously - this was again wonderful. With all the rain and floods, flight cancellations and scary-movie accomodation.. we enjoyed New Orleans at its best! Breath taking, inspiring city with brilliant architecture and jazz bands on every corner. 

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But this blog is way too short to tell the whole story..therefore everyone's invited to welcome story telling party some time in September :) 

Ok, I think  it's time to say something about my internship now, otherwise you'll get a wrong impression why I am here.

Daily work in a worst situation since the Cold War

How is work?

It’s awesome! Now I sound like a super optimistic person that is happy all the time, but I really am. I am so glad I ended up here, in Washington, DC, not in some sunny chill state. Mornings in Washington are magical, you can even smell politics in the air. It’s really like in movies - city wakes up, sun rises, there are full metros with 98% of people wearing business clothes, reading newspapers, drinking their morning coffees (ok, in metro it’s illegal, but they still do that), arranging meetings and looking so important and serious that at some point it starts getting funny.

With everything that happens in Ukraine and Russia now my daily work has become even more interesting and unpredictable. I would like to think that I am here in the best possible time, in a very special time. Ukraine type of things don’t happen very often and everyone here is really thinking and acting like this is the worst tension since the Cold War. 

So, what is JBANC’s role and what exactly do we do? As we are lobbying Baltic countries issues and Baltic countries start to appear more and more in conversations like ”What will be Putin’s next move?”, we have to work closely with Congress, NGOs and opinion leaders to educate them about the seriousness of the situation and ask for more to defend Ukraine and also Baltics.

We are writing and delivering letters to Congress, meeting with different organizations, attending politcal events, participating in demonstrations, communicating actively in social media, ”collecting” allies and friends that could also help. 

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Writing and afterwards delivering letters to all 100 Senate offices

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Representing Baltics and supporting Ukraine in White House rally

My organisation also is a member of broader coalition called CEEC (Central and East European Coalition) that consists of 18 different national organizations. So, together with them it is easier to achieve goals and arrange meetings with officials. Our countries have similar experience, similar problems and goals in relation to Russia, independence and defence.

During past few months we had three meetings with White House officials that advise Obama administration on Russian issues. Those meetings were off the record, of course, and I can’t get in many details here, but just this opportunity to be there, participate, shake hands and see how politics looks behind the curtain has been invaluable. Not to mention the fun part of going through security control with all the dogs and serious uniform guys.

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Meeting with White House National Security Council Russia Director Michael Carpenter

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My coalition colleagues after another Ukraine - Russia meeting

I also attended my first congressional hearings last month. For normal people – a hearing is a public event held on some particular issue where officials responsible for that basically account like in school what they have been doing, what is the situation like and what are the planned further steps. There are also few congressmen / women in a room that ask questions. At first I thought that this will be some kind of public theater and just a bureaucracy that has to be done, but I was surprised how deep, fruitful and critical were those discussions. Congress officials weren’t afraid to be provocative and sometimes even mean asking high officials questions like ”So, whay nothing is happening?”, ”Why we aren’t doing anything”? etc.

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Two hearings I attended were about Ukraine and in both hearings participated also Victoria Nuland who is one of the main publicly seen U.S. officials in relation to European affairs. And again I sat among all those people and felt like a child who has won a lot of candies. And I enjoyed them.

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United we stand for Ukraine @ Senate Foreign Relations hearing room

Oh, those Americans!

You probably remember my first blog about first impressions about americans, their way of life, communication and attitude. It’s been almost five months here and I start getting used to all this wierd stuff. Yes, I have started to use ”Hi, how are you?”, ”Oh, really?” and ”I very like your boots” kind of language that sometimes seems surprising even to myself. I am thinking in English and sometimes speak English to myself while alone at home (?!?).

IMG_20140219_010610Yes, that has happened. I am eating more hamburgers than at the beginning. But don’t worry and don’t expect me to come back twice as bigger :D I bought a bike and plan to do a lot of cycling. I already did my first 36 km trip from Rockville to Washington.

Anyway, there are still bunch of strange things I don’t and won’t understand about americans. One of them is about shoes when entering apartment or any kind of private space. They don’t take off shoes! And that is really annoying. I felt so stupid in gatherings at the beginning when at the end of parties I found out I am the only wearing socks there. Everyone else is just walking straight from the outside mud in people’s houses. I don’t get it and I find it irrespectful and impolite. But ok, it’s my latvian issue.

Here is more about strange stuff normal people, including me, can’t understand in America - http://sftimes.co/?id=466&src=share_fb_new_466

Enjoying sunshine with my sunshine

Senate, Senate, Senate and.. ta-daa - we are in Florida! Brilliant time spent in Miami and Key West with my Chuck Norris. Although we had a bit more than 2 weeks together, we enjoyed and experienced a lot. This was really a dessert among all the other adventures.

IMG_2551Miami Downtown landscape

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IMG_2695Romance in Key West

IMG_2705Pretty happy when finally reached the southernmost point of continental U.S.

IMG_2713Cheers & life is beautiful!

Questions?

No, it’s not easy to be more than 7000 km away from your other side of apple. It’s tough, depressing, paranormal etc. and etc. But it’s good that there are all those quotes that really help to survive :D For example, this one - "Nothing in this world worth having comes easy." Completely true and we know it. Therefore we try to enjoy any kind of real or virtual time together and don’t cry about hard life in general, cause every experience teaches us something.

The same with friends and other people – those who are there for real, will stay there forever. No matter whether you are in Riga or Alaska. This is a great test for all relationships – some of them will die, some of them have already died, but some will just become stronger. Natural selection. As for us.."We are the perfect couple, we're just not in the perfect situation now." :)

I guess I have to finish now..

“It's all about the ride” or ” forever is composed of nows”??

I thought a lot about "main conclusion" or life lesson for this blog. I didn't come up with one particular this time.  But I can try.

Time passes and so does the life in general. My friends get married, have kids, lose jobs, finish universities, buy new houses, have family celebrations.. and I am still here. Is it good or bad – I don’t know. It’s all relative. Is it really only about moments and how you are composing your whole life of many, many "nows"? I don't know anymore.

One afternoon we were enjoying cherry blossoms in DC, walked around the Jefferson memorial and got amazed by cherry snow all around us. It seemed like a perfect day, what more perfect could happen? Then one guy asked to take a picture. Ok, nothing much, everyone is doing that here. But then this more perfect happened. He kneeled down, took small, black box out of his pocket and proposed to his girlfriend. Everyone around stopped, cheered and clapped hands, they both were almost crying, huging and kissing. And cherries all around. And I - taking pictures and suddenly realizing that whatever you do in the world, this is something you can't buy or earn with hard work. I guess, I just want to say that although life is all about  moments, you can't forget about the bigger picture, about people you care most and things you want to achieve most. Ok, this is going to be way too romantic, but that's pure truth - in the end it's all about love. 

Recently my grandmother and grandfather had 50 (!!!) years marriage anniversary and family were throwing a surpise event for them. It is one of the moments you don't want to miss. But I missed it. And no money or success can buy that. Therefore, I guess, the most valuable skill in life is to be able to seperate moments from the bigger picture and make proper decisions understanding - when it's ok to enjoy seconds and moments and when you have to start worry about the life in general that is passing away slowly. The end of story.

But not to sound so depressive, I  want to use the opportunity and send the best wishes to the most amazing couple I know - happy anniversary!

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P.S. And don't forget about bigger picture! 

And about love.

#coming back soon, don't go too far

 

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