Friday, May 28, 2010

Last Picture of Riga

... at least for the moment. Dusk over the train station.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kapteina Enriko Pulkestenis

One regret about our departure from Latvia. The week before we left, the best restaurant in Riga moved to a new location literally across the street from our apartment. I suppose its for the best, as the best restaurant in Riga is a kebab stand artfully called "Foodbox," and if their perfectly spiced take-out doner kebab had been across the street for two years, your correspondent would weigh about 300 pounds now. And then to make matters worse, the best bar in Riga, Kapteina Enriko Pulkstenis (Captain Enrique's Watch) started moving to a location two doors away from us the weekend after my departure. Unknown if the new spot will feature such attractive shades of orange and green on the walls as seen above. If both the best restaurant and the best bar in town had been within 100 feet of my apartment, I'm not sure I would have ever made it home after work. So, again, maybe for the best, but still a bit of a shame to have been forced to walk a whole three blocks to these establishments for so long.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

COB Panther

Not much time to write, but here are a couple pics from the lovely Contingency Operating Base "Panther," located near the Potemkin Afghanistan at Muscatatuck, Indiana. The living is, as our military hosts call it, somewhat "austere."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some Last Things From Latvia

Last dinner: Istaba (Room), which went from being our favorite restaurant to falling out of favor and then returned to our good graces in time for a fine meal on my last night there. Highly recommended if you are in Riga, but Spring-Fall is probably better for their local-produce ethos than winter. I can't even remember what vegetables they serve there in the winter, perhaps because I'm blocking it out. Also, it considers itself more of an art gallery as restaurant, so there's usually something fun to look at, as in the case of tiny photography, above.

Last shivering outdoor beer: We braved the not-exactly-springlike temps to have a last drink at the "beer tents," aka No Problem bar on Dome Square. The only place to be if you find yourself in Riga on a summer evening. And if it's not so summery, you can borrow a blanket in one of a variety of counter-theft-hideous patterns.

Last Embassy function: Official farewell party, where I was gifted this jersey of the local hockey team. Pretty good party, and I managed to not say anything too offensive in my impromptu remarks. All's well that ends well.

Last balsams: I hope ever. I wouldn't be at all sad to go back to Riga sometime. But the local libation, black balsams, will not be the thing that brings me back. The picture is a little blurry, which is entirely appropriate and I wish I could say intentional.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Of Washington

We're approaching the end of two weeks of classroom instruction at the Foreign Service Institute, a locale loved and reviled by Foreign Service Officers the world over. Two weeks is kind of a nice span of time to be there, long enough to enjoy the relaxed pace of life and the lack of actual responsibilities or deadlines, yet short enough to not tire of those advantages.

Washington, for its part, is ok. It is America, so it's got that going for it. Good beer, passable Thai food (although were I here with a car, I would do more to enjoy Northern Virginia's only redeeming quality - the great ethnic food), diversity. The picture immediately above was actually taken on my first day back in DC - I momentarily thought that the fashion sense of the women of Latvia was actually reflecting some worldwide trend. It turns out that the above outfit, which could have been fairly normal in Riga, was something of an outlier for Washington. We'll leave evaluation of whether that is a positive or negative to the reader.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Of Colorado

Weekend two was spent with family in Colorado. Still the best state in the union. Wish I'd had more time there. I forgot to even take any pictures until I was on the way back to the airport. That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Of Cut Off, Louisiana

Your correspondent was looking forward to training in Washington with a mixture of anticipation of a relaxed schedule and free time, and concern about being a bit bored. I need not have worried, as somehow I've had a pretty busy social calendar for the most part and haven't even had time to publish all those remaining Latvia pictures and such.

One reason for that has been weekends that have involved departing directly from training on Friday afternoon to sprint to the airport, get to somewhere halfway across the country for 48 hours, and then fly back to DC. It's been a bit exhausting, but totally worth it.

First stop was glamorous Cut Off, Louisiana, for a wedding of a good friend. In respecting the Cajun traditions of the bride's family, there was a dancin' parade from the ceremony to the reception, as pictured above, and then a kick-ass reception (also pictured) at the Cut Off Community Center (photo detail of venue at top... I don't remember what the giant tiaras were awarded for). Perhaps more important was respect of the age-old Cajun traditions of eating too much great food, and having too many great bands playing the reception, and most importantly, drinking too much - an effort some guests got started on early with multiple drive-through daiquiris over the course of the day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crashing and Banging

Hey, all. Sorry it's been a long time since I rapped at ya. We've been been out in West Virginia swerving around in retired police cars and shooting Kalashnikovs and such. The Diplomatic Security Counter-Threat Course is definitely the most fun you can have with the Federal government and get paid for it. I suppose, since it's Diplomatic Security running the course -- the very same guys who would get all freaked out if I started publishing much of anything at all about work here -- I should be especially circumspect about describing the training. So, that's all we have to say about that... other than that the driving was so cool that your correspondent was required to wear the funky helmet pictured above.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Visu Labu! (100/100)

Oof. We're really sad to see the 100 Days of Latvia effort end with such a whimper. We had hoped to do 100 days (mostly) in a row, and have a last day left over for a big retrospecticus. But packing and saying farewell to friends and flying across the ocean each got in the way in turn. And while we do want to make this blog something worth the time of those kind enough to stop by and visit, it just couldn't get to the top of the priority list recently.

So here we are, writing from a Holiday Inn in Winchester, Virginia, putting up a belated 100th post. This picture is a display of Latvian flags put up in Dome Square in anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the re-declaration of Latvian independence, from the Soviet Union in this case. Which happens today, actually, so perhaps our delay was more fortuitous than we thought.

In any case, it was a wonderful two years in Latvia. We had our ups and downs, and Latvia had its enduring points and its frustrations. But overall, your correspondents have nothing to complain about. We'll be in the states for the next five weeks and change, after which, we'll be heading to beautiful Kabul, Afghanistan for a year of sun, fun, and guns. About all of which, more soon - but maybe not necessarily every day of the week any more.