On a hot day in Latvia (or anywhere in Scandinavia) you have to go to the beach. It’s the law. The reason is because it might be the last time for the year. That’s how bad the weather is up north.
I went to the seaside in Jurmala, which is a Latvian word meaning “seaside.” (I wonder if Riga means “capital”?) I was walking along, minding my own business, when I heard beach volleyball in the distance. We native Californians, we have what is called in medical journals “Volleyball Ear”. We can hear great beach volleyball before we can see it. We can hear the crisp passing, the solid serves, the confident spikes, and simply know. My ear led me to stumble on two of the world’s top players during a practice, Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins. I stayed for nearly an hour, asking a woman next to me about the guys. I didn’t say anything about The Ear. No reason to invite skepticism on a hot day.
If you have never heard of those guys, then you might know another Latvian sportsman, basketballer Kristaps Porzingis, who was drafted by the New York Knicks this year. I fear the worst for his future, especially since now he has that Knicks taint on him. (See Lampe, Maciej)
RUSSIA! (but with a warning from the Estonians)
I took a twenty-euro bus from Riga to Pskov. That’s too much for only 290km, but that’s all there is. I noticed a thirty-euro night bus. I think you pay more for a less surly driver. Only eight people were on the bus, including a Dutch guy with a stroller, but no baby. He is literally delivering a stroller for his brother from Holland to Russia because his brother simply forgot to bring it with him.
I had to get stamped out of southeastern Estonia, but the guard gave me a pamphlet and a warning about overstaying my Schengen visa for Europe. I am pretty sure I have a good two weeks left, but he was serious about making sure I understood despite not being able to communicate well. I think I overstay my Schengen visa every year, but no one has ever said a peep about it.
The Russian immigration officer went through my passport stamps three times. I can never watch them too closely because it cracks me up. For some reason I think it is the funniest thing to watch them scrutinize my Kyrgyzstan stamps or whatever catches their eye, and it’s a bad habit that is going to get me in trouble some day.
I’m a little spooked about Russia. Day One went pretty well, but for some reason I have the idea I really need to be on my toes. I feel like an infant with hardly being able to speak. I really need to learn some verbs. I can read the alphabet and my vocabulary is slowly growing, but my sentences are like grunting when I can only say, “Small! Small!” in a restaurant.
First person to reply below gets a postcard from Russia—if you want one.
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