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What can your story be in the United States?

3 posts categorized "Lita Juberte"

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

 

01/03/2014

Merry Christmas and happy New York!

Dear all, hope you enjoyed the end of the 2013 and happily welcomed the New Year. Wish you all great success, never ending energy and new discoveries every day!

As for me – past two weeks have been really contrasting and I am glad that this festive season has finally ended. I really want to go back to normal life :) When I got to know I have to come to the US before Christmas and New Year, I was happy and worried at the same time. On the one hand, I really wanted to see how people celebrate here, what traditions, events etc. they have and also to enjoy New Year’s Eve in a completely different country. But, on the other hand, I knew for sure that this time of the year for being alone in an unknown environmnet will be a tough experience.

Almost ”home alone” Christmas

As there were so many Christmas days, I tried to fill them with different events and planned out a tight schedule to avoid having free time for sad thoughts. I did a lot of walk in Washington downtown – just seeing buildings, people, environment, traffic, squirells (so many! and everywhere), christmas decorations and more. It was such a great feeling just being alone and walking wherever I want, drinking coffee whenever I want, being like an observer of life in Washington and trying to absorb everything.

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One day I went to nearly located cinema in Silver Spring to watch latvian movie ”Mother, I love You”, that was shown here within some European film festival. As I hadn’t seen it in Latvia, it seemed a great opportunity to do it now. But this probably wasn’t the best choice how to avoid homesickness in a Christmas time :) And it was so strange to see streets of Riga and our old, blue trams and city centre in the movie. Those, who have seen the movie, know that also our national anniversary celebration (18th of November), fireworks and all these patriotic scenes are shown there. So, I really had a feeling of going to the airport after watching the movie :)

IMG_1069Silver Spring theatre

During Christmas holidays I went to see Washington National Cathedral and annual Festival of Lights at the Washington Mormon Temple that was georgeous! Breath taking, huge temple and everything – even the smallest tree branch - illuminated with christmas lights and beautiful concert afterwards. Subtle taste of Christmas!

IMG_1118Festival of lights @Mormon temple

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And also ”Zoolights” in Washington Zoo were great! You can just walk for hours there and enjoy all the lights, animals, flow of people and fresh air.

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What I didn’t like about Christmas events was faces of people when I answered their questions about my Christmas plans. In all places where you buy tickets, when someone asked how many tickets do I need, I answered – one. And then there were those ”seriously?” style faces and I saw compassion and people said they are sorry and so on. Like you can’t go somewhere alone during Christmas! At the beginning it felt strange, but later – I kind of enjoyed these situations and told people ironically that it is possible to enjoy everything also without others! :) This was also one of the greatest discoveries about myself during the Christmas season. I learned to be alone, ignore what others think and how it looks. I just enjoyed my own company, events and had time to think and become more stronger and independent (at least – I hope so).

But I wasn’t alone for long, cause Juberts’ family invited me to have a Christmas dinner with them and that was a really lovely evening – with roasted ducks, songs, bible reading in latvian, presents and more. And not to mention my dear friends and family that kept me updated about their latvian Christmas all the time – sent me photos of their Christmas trees, dinners, gatherings and also audio files with my sister playing saxophone and grandfather playing accordion. Of course, I wanted to be with them, but at the same time all these small things warmed my heart and I knew that in my mind I was with them.

IMG_1175some random deers in my way to christmas eve dinner IMG_1198and dogs under the christmas tree IMG_1227Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!

New York, New York

And this is another story - New Year in New York :)

Last year I was jealous of my mother and her so called ”mind /wishes map” that she made the year before – it’s the piece of paper where you glue or draw all the wishes you want to come true for the next year – the more specifically, the better. Last year it turned out almost everything she wished for came true and I couldn’t believe it! I never believed these things (it’s just silly, isn’t it?). But I didn’t want to waste my wishes, so, decided to secretely make my own map for the year 2013. And, believe it or not, almost everything came true also for me. A year ago I didn’t know about BAFF and that I will be going to US, but one of the photos I used in my map was the picture of Empire State building. Now being in America for a while I understood that this wish is closer than ever (approximately 350 km) and I need to fulfill it till the end of 2013.  So, a plan for the New Year was ready – 5 hours in a bus and I was in the New York City.

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I spent there three days and it is pretty difficult to describe everything or summarize words in one impression about New York. It’s huge, it’s awesome, it’s full of everything, it’s busy, lonely, dynamic, wealthy, poor..

Martins, my colleague from BAFF area who studies in New York University, welcomed me in his city and showed me around. We had a really intensive sightseeing speed during those days and we managed to see a lot, basically Manhattan, of course. And a bit of New Jersey, where he lives and even a smaller bit of Brooklyn, where we celebrated New Year’s Eve.

IMG_1335 IMG_1340Times  Square exactly one day before NYE IMG_1346

During first hours in New York I wanted to take photos of everything – every building and every crowd of people. But soon I understood – it’s useless and it’s not like you are passing by some specific must see place and never will come back. New York itself is one big must see sightseeing place and skyscrapers never end, they are everywhere and each of them – like a piece of art. Buildings were the most magnificent for me in NYC – you can just walk streets and enjoy them, count floors, imagine how they were built, admire them.. it really is breathtaking. 

IMG_1368Central park - Manhattan view

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an ordinary day @ Grand Central Terminal IMG_1383Chrysler Building

And I finally got the proof that those desktop pictures google.com offers us really exist. When the day darkened, we took a ferry to the near Staten Island and the view from the ferry was unbelievable. It’s like you look and see for real, but still can’t believe that in front of you highlights all Manhattan, skyscrapers, Empire State building and everything else that You are used to see at the beginning or ending of movies.

IMG_1395 IMG_1398awesomeness from the ferry

IMG_1411awesome me on the ferry :)

IMG_1415Wall Street stock exchange IMG_1401life is all about breath taking moments, this one is called "the Statue of Liberty"

IMG_1432and Brooklyn Bridge

IMG_1435and drinking cocktails in a restaurant with such a view is something you can't describe in a normal sentence, so, I will skip that

Some first impressions about New York:

- pedestrians rule the world there (as there are an enormous amount of people and also cars, it’s pretty difficult to choose your own walking speed. You are dependent on others – one hundred people in front and one hundred behind :) But car drivers are kind of scared of pedestrians, because they are unpredictable. They don’t wait for allowed signal to cross the street, they just go and everyone else is waiting. At least in the center. Of course, with my police background it was a bit difficult to follow these rules, but I get used to that pretty soon :))

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- police is everywhere (whether in cars, on streets or specially built places – police can be seen everywhere and this a good strategy, how they show that everything’s under control all the time and police is accessible almost on every corner. Whatsmore, police in New York functions also as a ”good friend”, whom I can ask questions about right directions and what to do in different situations. So called, community policing.)

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cheap metro!
(comparing with Washington, I had a feeling I have a special discount for metro in NYC. If in New York one metro ride costs +/- 2,5 dollars, in DC there is a special formula for every ride (depends on length, number of stops, time of the day) but normally from Rockville to DC it costs approximately 4 – 6 dollars!)

IMG_1518metro performances

like seen in movies??!? (Sometimes when you go to places you have seen in movies, there are many things that actually turns out not to be true. But at least after these three days, I got the impression that in New York everything is like seen in the movies – starting with skyscrapers and finishing with people. Also the contrasts are really powerful - You can see glamorous restaurants and high-heeled business women, but just around the corner there are lots of homeless people and trash on the streets (movies, movies..). There are so called Manhattan elite that lives in freshly built buildings with a view to Central park or river and there are more dangerous areas where you feel insecure if you don’t carry a gun with you. Contrasts. Contrasts.)

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IMG_1491playing fun in Chinatown (sooo reminded of Vermanes park in Latvia) IMG_1497Chinatown 2

people care less about others (now, when I have a point of reference (friendly Rockville and Washington), I can say that in New York people are too busy with themselves. They all are rushing somewhere with their own thoughts and life paths, they just converge with crowd and are impersonal. And that is what I lacked most – smiles and more personal attitude. Everyone is just a small, small, invisible point in a huge ocean of people and it’s easy to lost yourself there.)

IMG_1544IMG_1462officially highest building in the States - the new World Trade Center (opening on 2014)

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I spent in New York only three days and therefore, logically, can’t analyze in depth what I liked or disliked. Three days for New York is like running into supermarket and buying the first three things You see without going to the other end of the supermarket. But at least I got a short insight in the city and also improved my geographical sense of this continent.

New York was great, of course. But just as I know this, I also know that dream cities don’t exist and I couldn’t live there for a longer period of my life someday. It’s great to go there, feel the heartbeats of city, enjoy the craziness and dynamics, but it’s so good to come back to my political, perfectly ordered Washington, and after that - back to Latvia :) 

And continuing the tradition of one philosophical thought of the blog.. ;D

in the end, life is about contrasts, that change all the time and you should be flexible enough to capture everything and turn every situation in a life enjoying moment. So many emotions, people, situations – one time you’re falling deeper and deeper in depression, the next moment you feel like the king of the world.

For me the past two weeks were exactly like that - lonely wine drinking in an empty apartment with no Christmas tree, sitting alone in a metro and getting bored counting how many stops are left till the destination. Then again – standing in the middle of the Manhattan, losing breath of everything – people, skyscrapers, dynamics, walking on the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of the night.. life is breath taking no matter whether you drink wine alone or catch moments with millions of people in the NYC streets. It's probably called the art of living. Still need to learn a lot.

IMG_1559and this is my last "check" of 2013's to do list, starting a new one now and encouraging You to do the same

Have a wonderful year, friends! How wonderful? It depends only on You! :)

more photos - http://www.flickr.com/photos/112167179@N03/sets/

 

 

12/27/2013

Surviving first sprint in the U.S. or ”life begins at the end of Your comfort zone”

A sentimental introduction

Last few months in Latvia I spent time telling people story about the amazing BAFF opportunity I’ve got – to go to America for a professional internship, work in my field of interest and experience everything american culture has to offer. I didn’t know the exact dates or organisation I will be interning in. That was just fun to talk to people and try to imagine what the life across the ocean could be.

Only one week before actual flying to States I finally realized that it is really happening and this is not some virtual theme anymore, so I had to get ready for this life changing experience.

I also realized that it won’t be so easy as telling those stories before. That I will be the person that will have to get in that airplane, pack all my life in one or two bags, leave people I love, leave my job (that I also loved so much!), leave my home country landscapes, winter mornings and summer evening.. everything.

But at the same time I knew that this journey will toughen me as a personality and will make me learn things I wouldn’t have learned in my comfort zone where everything was known and predictable. So, my dear friend Una sent me a very encouraging article that said: ”Moving around the world teaches you many things. It isn’t for everyone. It takes a special type of person to be able to do that..” http://thoughtcatalog.com/rachel-rae/2013/11/10-things-about-living-abroad-no-turning-back/#TzOqZILIsr4SY1Zb.01

So, I started to perceive this as one of the exams life has passed me and was ready to start a reality show with myself in a key role.

Goodbye, Riga & hello, America!

Paari okeenama

 Let the game begin

 

IMG_0621Getting nervous in Denmark

After spending million hours in airports and planes (ok, just 2 hours in Copenhagen airport and some 9 – 10 while crossing the ocean), I finally arrived at my destination – Washington, Dulles airport. As I wasn’t trying to get drugs or fresh pork across the border, all the stuff with imigration officers, questons – answers and baggage checkings actually went really well and I was oficially allowed to take the first steps on an American ground.

I was also lucky that my internship supervisor Karl managed to pick me at the airport, otherwise I don’t know whether I will be writing my first blog right now. Cause Dulles airport is so huge that you actually need a map to navigate yourself there. But this story ended happily and after short trip we were finally at Rockville – my official internship place and the town approximately 30 mins from Washington, DC. We went straight to the office. But not to start working, but to meet my future colleagues from American Latvian Association. And there very many of them, because they were preparing for next days board meeting still that late in the evening. So, in my first evening in America, I got to know some 6 – 8 latvians, isn’t that great? 

Among them was also my surname – sister (Juberte!) that offered me to stay at her family house while I am a homeless person. (about the surnames – it’s another story, still working on our family tree research).

IMG_0648my christmas residence for the first week

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having dinner with lovely Juberts family - the best home you can wish for a fresh start in a new country

 

IMG_0637studying american money @ another wi-fi cafe (they saved me many times during the first week, when I lost myself, others or direction)

First weekend – social events and getting to know even more latvians!

First days in America were tough. Everything happened at the same time – new people, new environment, new money items, new events, weather etc. From time to time just wanted to press ”stop” button and take a deep breath. But wasn’t time for that.

As the first was the weekend of a board meeting of American Latvian Association (ALA), they invited me to join a couple events. On Saturday I attended dual citizenship seminar in Latvian embassy. After that - joined a ”social event” (they call it like that, but everyone knows what it actually means J) with wine and latvian food, chat with different people – both american latvians and guests. So much positive emotions, contacts and great time spent there!

And my first american Sunday turned out to be a real latvian one! Again :) Together with colleagues of ALA we went to latvian church (that’s located in the same building where my office!), enjoyed ministraton and I had the first opportunity to think philosophical thoughts about meaning of life and why everything happens as it happens.. After that we went to annual latvian Christmas market, where different latvian organisations and individuals sold homemade things, food, old latvian books and other historic things. Atmosphere – very friendly and nice. We also had a traditional latvian dinner with stewed cabbages and so called ”rasols”. It was actually funny that during the first few days here I tasted more latvian food that normally during a year in Latvia.

Few days later I had the oportunity to attend the Christmas tree lighting event in Latvian embassy in Washington. It was one more great evening with american – latvian society, embassadors and other officials. Latvian band called ”Xylem trio” performed a beautiful Christmas concert. After that - hot wine, gingerbreads and enjoyment of festive atmosphere.

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My first official something - @ dual citizenship seminar

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IMG_0752home, sweet home - getting ready for christmas tree lighting @ Latvian Embassy

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and enjoying a wonderful christmas concert

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latvian christmas market @Rockville

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IMG_0771and guess who bought the handmade latvian clock? Yes. And it is awesome. And heavy.

Solving issues of Maslov’s pyramid

As you remember from school years when studying about Maslov’s hierarchy of needs – you can start thinking of normal life, work and psychological things when you have a place to live, food to eat etc.  So, I set myself one week deadline to establish the basic level of the pyramid. And I was succesful. Without going into details – I found a nice room in a centre of Rockville (beautifully named - Monroe street) and moved in exactly after one week. The location is great – I can cross a street and take a metro if want to go to DC or take a bus to go to the office in Rockville. And what’s even more great – I can use a gym that’s located some 20 metres from my apartment. And, of course, I went there at the earliest opportunity. Don’t know whether people enjoy sport here, but I dindn’t complain about being the only person in a gym. So, I am now officialy starting to grow muscles for my first American summer :) Miami, wait for me! 

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this latvian flag has experienced a lot, last time lived in Malta for almost  five months, now - finding it's place in America

Zaaleand my private gym :)

IMG_0640friends, this is friendly Rockville

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car wasn't supposed to be there, but otherwise - christmas in Rockville

IMG_0639and for my dear ex colleauges - we have our own sheriff :)

Vaavereand squirells everywhere

 PEOPLE

In a supermarket:

Happy american: ”Wow, I like your boots, where did you get them?”

Lita (sharply) after a pause: ”In Latvia.”

Happy american not so happy anymore – ”???” and just walked away

Everyone I met during my first days here was so kind, nice and helpful. I even got suspicios at some points thinking whether these people aren’t acting.. but they were not. And this is something we (in Latvia & other countries) have to learn – to become more open, helpful, stop calculate what is the benefit of doing something, but just be nice. That doesn’t sound very difficult, right?

And this is not the story only about latvians in America, but about the most part of the people - they simply are positive and seem interested to help if somebody is in trouble. Though at the beginning I also looked strange to everyone that was doing it. Especially in shops and other public places when people (not only the ones who work there) asked questions like ”How are You?”, ”How is Your day?” etc. And also expressed different compliments, like ”How I love Your nails!”, ”You have beautiful earrings!”, ”This jacket will make You look like a model. Really!”

That felt weird at the beginning. And I wasn’t answering (like in Latvia you ususally think that someone has gone mad). But after few days started to feel like an angry bird in a ”happy American society” :)  So, started to chat with people, answer that my day was great, told stories about Latvia, my internship and how blonde I am in a new environment. And that was fun, cause I got to now new people, things and also useful tips how to survive here.

So, a tip for the future – if You are in America, don’t send people to Latvia for boots, it’s just a nice way how to start a conversation :)

First internship week – a powerful beginning with Clinton, McCain and handshake with a real congressman

Since my first internship day (started officially on the 9th of Dec) some time has passed, but now, trying to summarize the first two weeks, I have to stay that it has been a splendid start!

For a brief introduction – I am interning at JBANC (Joint Baltic American National Committee) – it is a non-profit organization that represents the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian communities here in America and promotes Baltic-American agenda in Washington. Or, more simply, – JBANC does a PR job for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to make sure America gets our issues and doesn’t forget them, as well as cooperates with different organisations and state authorities to help both sides when working with Baltic themes. My responibilities while being at JBANC will be quite diverse, but mostly – focused on media and public outreach and organisational things that also includes attending political events, conferences and keeping up with global issues. Sounds really exciting, right? Or as Kevin Spacy says: ”Welcome to Washington!” (and this again is another story – cause everyhting that happens in congress and other serious buildings is so greatly played in the ”House of Cards” that sometimes it becomes difficult to separate serial from the real life :))

But continuing about my internship – no doubt, it would be quite political one, but till now I have been more a communications person that has studied and worked in PR and communications field, only knowing the basics about politics in Lavia, not to mention the United States. Therefore, while flying across the ocean, I wanted to become smarter, of course, and read some printed Wikipedia materials about the U.S. politics. I learned some basic stuff, like – what is the diference between senate and congress and how many politicians work in Washington. Nothing in depth, as you can understand :) Therefore this will be quite a challenege, but I have a feeling that I am on the right track.

IMG_0913This is my actual office - not the church, but inside the same building

One of the first events I had to attend in relation to my internship, was ”Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize” award ceremony that took place in one of the most fascinating DC buildings – in Cannon House Office Building right across the Capitol. This year’s prize recipient was also impressive – Hillary Clinton. She was awarded as being a leader on internet freedom and women’s rights. And there I was – two days after landing in the U.S. and for the first time being in Washington, drenched in rain (cause I had nothing at that time, even an umbrella) – I was in a room full with politicians, national media, human rights experts and more and more. Listened to amazing, perfectly written speeches and got the real inspiration and confidence that this is gonna be the time of my life. And I have to enjoy every single moment of it. Because - how often do You really have an opportunity to tap on the Clinton’s shoulder? (no, I didn’t do that, that was only my second day, couldn’t take the risk to be kicked out of the country so soon).

IMG_0660Must have in this blog - the Capitol. No matter how many times you've seen it in movies, this is a complete different story when you see it yourself for the first time

IMG_0675the Hillary event

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After few days also John McCain decided to meet me :) He organized a public event expressing his opinion on situation on Ukraine and America's role in it. Scenario - quite similar. Media, politicians, foreign policy experts, embassadors. And me - trying to grasp every moment and word there.

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IMG_0955some selfie stuff that's becoming more and more popular

IMG_0953and downtown Washington's landscape

One more event we attended that week was 9th Anniversary celebration of Adriatic Institute in Capitol Hill Club, where champions of liberty were honored. Among them also Edwin Meese III, who served long-time during president Ronald Reagan years. It was a great honor just to be in the same building with this adorable historical personality and listen to him and others that have achieved so much and have done a really hard work to leave something lasting not only for America, but the whole world. These and other events during my first internship days were really powerful and it was pretty difficult to recover from that ”first moment shock” and understand that this is really happening – it is a real life, real environment and real personalities I have to enjoy for the next coming months. 

IMG_0866Edwin Meese III speaking. After the event had the possibility to meet him personally and start collecting "handshakes of great personalities"

My first time in the United States Congress

But the first weeks weren’t only about drinking wine with awesome people. We had to do also some work :)  One day together with my internship supervisor or JBANC managing director we went to ”the Hill” (here it stands for the United States Congress or buildings where members of congress are working). We were dropping off JBANC letters and asking congress people to cosponsor the Black Ribbon Day resolution (or in simple words – asking for support in promoting the 23rd of August as the ”Black Ribbon Day” when recognizing the victims of Soviet Communist and Nazi regimes).

Karl gave me a cool ”Congress book” with names and contacts and we started our tour. We were visiting some 30-40 congress people offices, telling about the Black Ribbon Day idea and asking to participate. It was fun just to walk with Karl through the long hallways and enjoy conversations. It was more like a show for me – to experience for the first time how people seen in movies actually work – how offices are furnished, how staff are dressed, how straight flags are standing in front of the each and every office, how smiling are cleaning ladies etc. At the end of the day I felt like after a marathon, both – physically and emotionally. Then I understood why Karl suggested to wear a comfortable shoes before :) So many impressions! And I also got to talk to staff member in some offices trying to pretend that this is not my first week in States and the first time in Congress.

IMG_0848the magic book - congress at my fingertips :)

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IMG_0852summary of the day - few business cards

What surprised me the most in all this adventure was the fact that congress people are so available! I had imagined that there would be like 100 security controls before actually getiing in. And that you really need a super-super reason why you are approaching congress buildings at all. But nothing like that. Theoretically – if you are a homeless person, it’s the best place in the centre where to warm yourself a bit. You just need to go through one security control (be sure not to take any liquids, bombs etc. with you) and that’s all. You’re in and can go anywhere – just to explore the magnificent building or knock some congressmen door, if you want. Of course, there most probably exist that super safety control somewhere around we can’t imagine, but the first impression is really cool – you have a problem, go and solve it there, if necessary.

IMG_0854after well done job

IMG_0931and some other meetings with officials, each and every one of them - like a whole politics course in the university

 

 

Statedept (1)with the State dept.

Statedept (7)with the three Baltic embassies

Statedept (5)
Statedept (8)
serious me

DSCN1160political me

OK, that’s it.

I’ve been trying to finish this first blog for quite a time. Every day there are new experiences, conclusions, emotions, but it is impossible to include everything in the blog. Therefore I am stopping here for this time.

P.S. just few concluding thoughts / impressions after first weeks in America:

- everything’s BIG! (starting with distances and finishing with eveyday stuff you buy in a shop. In Latvia you should have at least 4 children family to buy packages like this);

 - wihtout a car it’s quite impossible to live here (if you don’t live in the centre close to public transportation). So, almost everyone has a car and they spend long hours in traffic while getting home-work / work-home;

- people don’t walk, everything seems far for them and if some stranger (like me) walks just some 2 or 3 kilometers to get somewhere they usually don’t think person is normal (and also car drivers show their attention signaling or expressing different comments, especially if you are outside the city centre);

- not possible to find traditional Latvian style supermarkets in a walking distance in the city centre (so, again – need a car, if you want to buy something normal to eat, like fresh vegetables etc.);

- if you finally find those supermarkets, can’t buy normal alcohol there (it’s not that I am alcoholic, but it feels safer if a bottlle of whiskey is available in a walking distance. But not in America, here you need to find a special tobacco / alcohol store),

 

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this one was the first alcohol I bought here - splendid, right?

& cheers!

P.P.S. summarizing everything in one "philosophical thought of the first blog", I am sure that everything happens for a reason - people we meet and opportunities we have are not just accidents. We have to be open enough and brave enough to take the risks and not to choose the easiest way, because "life begins at the end of your comfor zone" and this is so true!

Take care, enjoy life and don't be afraid to challenge yourselves - it's the only way how to find out what you are capable of.

And I am sooo sorry about the length of this blog, I've always had this "graphoman problem" :(

Do I have more photos? But, of course, just check here :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/112167179@N03/sets/

Welcome to Washington, friends! See you in the next blog!

Welcome