Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Joys of living in the DC area: Christmas bazaars

I have lived in the Washington, D.C, area for over a decade, and one of things I most enjoy about the DMV* is its diversity and multi-culturalism. This Washington Post article lists just some of the many ethnic Christmas bazaars one can enjoy.

I had checked out the Swedish bazaar near my home a few weeks ago, but found it a bit lacking. Much of the emphasis was on food, and because I don't eat gluten, many holiday goodies are off limits for me.

This past weekend, however, I visited the Finnish bazaar and was pleasantly surprised. Opening time was advertised as 11am, at which the Finnish ambassador arrived to cut the ribbon, officially open the bazaar and invite everyone in. By that point a long line had already formed outside the church and we all happily began trooping in, accompanied by the sounds of lively traditional Finnish folk music being played by three musicians at the entrance.

In addition to a very large table full of baked goodies (I didn't even try to fight the crowd to see what exactly was being sold) and a cafe where one could purchase lunch, the market featured a number of vendors. I was drawn to two vendors in particular, as I love Scandinavian decor, especially the Christmas decorations. A small elf girl on a sled was too cute to pass up, and thus I have another happy looking Christmas elf to add to my small collection.

For a sick-at-home friend I picked up a Finnish Christmas star pastry and Finnish chocolates. She had planned to visit the bazaar with me, but her nasty cold put a kibosh on that. However, now we know that the Finnish  bazaar is worth penciling into the calendar for next year!

*Somewhat recent acronym for "DC/Maryland/Virginia", which is very appropriate seeing as much of the population of the DC Metro area resides outside the borders of Washington itself and is found in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Starting over

Thanks to my friend and famous blogger Liene Femme Au Foyer I've decided to give this blog new life. Here's to hoping that I can manage more than the three posts back in 2010, and that maybe I can even throw in a few photographs for color!

Sadly, this day has taken on a very somber tone for Latvians. Following lovely and joyous Independence Day celebrations (Latvia's big day is November 18, 1918, meaning that this year Latvia marked its 95th birthday) around the world, a horrible tragedy occurred in Riga yesterday, November 21. The roof of a large and busy supermarket collapsed. Last night as I went to bed, the number of people who had lost their lives stood at six; this morning when I woke up, it was over 30, and now the death toll has reached over 50. For a country as small as Latvia this is an enormous number of lives lost; for the individuals who are now without their parent, spouse, sibling, child or friend, it is a loss of unspeakable magnitude.

As is so often is the case during such tragedies, one feels helpless. Latvia's beloved poet Imants Ziedonis said it well, "Visbriesmīgāk ir, kad otram sāp, un tu nezini kā lai palīdz." (It is most awful when another person is hurting, and you don't know how to help.) I resorted to asking a friend in Latvia to make a small donation to a fund set up to help the victims, with the promise that I will pay her back somehow. Unfortunately, many non-profit organizations in Latvia are not equipped to accept donations via non-European credit cards; if that were the case, I would more regularly donate to a number of worthy causes in Latvia.

One of the best poems on loss is by Marie Howe, and I will close with that.

What the Living Do - Marie Howe
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.