Thursday, April 22, 2010

Life is what happens while you're making other plans

My family and friends all know that I'm a planner. Although I realize that life does sometimes get in the way of my plans, there are numerous things - such as vacations - that I certainly do plan rather far in advance. Naturally, when I booked my end-of-April flight to Latvia at the very end of January, I could not have foreseen that an Icelandic volcano would throw global air travel into a tailspin right around the time of my planned and long-awaited Euro-vacation.

As the trip was inching closer, but trans-Atlantic flights were mostly still grounded and my airline (thanks, United!) issued a waiver for anyone traveling through my departure date, I decided to cancel my trip. Naturally, I had very much been looking forward to returning to Riga after a several year absence, but I decided that not knowing what may happen and the rather realistic prospect of flights being seriously delayed or even canceled was just not how I wished to spend my precious time off. Thus, I canceled the trip, got a full refund and told work I would not be taking my five days of vacation leave that particular week. Instead, I will take two random days off in the next two months, as well as three days off (combined with a weekend, of course) to visit family in the Midwest. I am looking forward to that *almost* as much as I'd been looking forward to my European trip.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Volcanoes and vacations

I am scheduled to go on vacation later this week. To Latvia. My excitement about this has been greatly tempered by the Icelandic volcano and the havoc it continues to wreak on air travel. As someone who journeyed on her first transatlantic flight at age 12, it is almost inconceivable that planes have been grounded for so many days and that no one knows for certain when full schedules will be possible again.

Anne Applebaum has a great piece in Slate today about this very topic: She writes: In fact, "European integration," as we have come to understand it, turns out to be utterly dependent on reliable air travel. Over the last two decades—almost without anyone really noticing it—Europeans have begun, in at least this narrow sense, to live like Americans: They move abroad for work, live for a while in one country, and then move to another, eventually going home or maybe not. They do business in countries where they don't know the language, go on vacation in the Mediterranean and the Baltic, visit their mothers on the weekends. Skeptics who thought the European single market would never function because there would be no labor mobility in Europe have been proved wrong.

I know of so many Europeans who work and live in other European countries or elsewhere in the world, and of so many Americans who work and live in other countries. I myself have thought nothing of spending periods as long as three months or as short as three days in Latvia, just by hopping on a plane. Although I feel that I've always appreciated the ready availability of modern air travel, I definitely appreciate it even more so now.

For the time being, the airline's website and and various news outlets will be my best friends as I wait for news about the resumption of regularly scheduled flights....mine in particular!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Post nr. 1 / The Beginning!

Given the fact that I have little chance to do any type of writing nowadays, I decided that trying a little blogging might be a good outlet. I will probably write about a variety of things, although might mostly focus on issues that affect Latvian-Americans and Latvians outside the United States, as I certainly spend enough time in the Latvian-American community and do give these issues much thought.

I will start off with an anecdote provided by a Latvian-American child. It illustrated quite well how very confusing the concept of identity is for many of us!

In working with Latvian-American children in various settings, I have always found it interesting to discuss identity with them -- no matter what their age. I was teaching a group of second graders (seven year olds), and decided to ask them whether they were Latvian or American or both. These children came from a variety of backgrounds - several had two parents who are Latvian-American (i.e. born in the U.S. to Latvian parents), one had a mother from Latvia and a father who is American, yet another was the son of Latvian diplomats temporarily posted in the United States. They all unequivocally told me that they are American -- yes, even the child who only has a Latvian passport. I decided to quiz one boy whose family I know quite well. I said, "Your grandmother is Latvian, your grandfather is Latvian, is your father Latvian?" There was a puzzled look and silence, then, "No, he's a lawyer!"