Monday, September 29, 2014

Books That Have Affected My Life

Recently there have been a spate of lists on social media consisting of individuals listing books that have changed or impacted their lives. While "change" is a strong word, I'm joining in the fun by listing some books and authors who have had some type of impact on me. They are listed in no particular order.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
I remember asking for this book as a gift from my parents for some occasion (Christmas? name's day?), and being quite excited to receive it. I may have been in 8th or 9th grade, and I read it quickly. It had enticed me initially because it was about Lithuanian immigrants in Chicago, but the book is best known for its impact on public policy, as it exposed various unsavory and unhealthy practices in American slaughterhouses at the beginning of the 20th century. It's not a particularly uplifting tale, yet it does an excellent job in describing the difficult life many immigrants experience in this country.

Homo Novus by Anšlavs Eglītis (in Latvian)
In 1982 a large Latvian song festival took place in Milwaukee, and one of the events was a play called "Homo Novus." Many parents would not take their young kids to theater meant for adults, but my mom and dad were not just any parents (and I was not just any kid)! The play, which is about artistic types in Riga in the interwar period, left an impact on me - it was funny and interesting - and when I discovered it was based on a book, I insisted I needed to read it. That was likely a couple of years later, yet I was still on the young side to be reading such a long novel. The story captivated me with its descriptions of bohemians and their vibrant lives in Rīga in the 1930s, and was motivation for reading quite a few more Latvian novels.

Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Not only were these my first ever poetry books, but they are also the first books I remember needing to read. They were so popular in my elementary school that a waiting list was created in our library--only once you reached the top of that important list could you check out one book. I was overjoyed when I eventually received them as gifts, and those 25+ year old books still have a place of honor in my bookcase. Silverstein introduced me to the notion that literature can be really fun. I suspect non-American reader might not be familiar with his poetry, so I will share one of his poems from the collection A Light in the Attic.

Geraldine now, stop shaking that cow
For heaven’s sake, for your sake and the cow’s sake.
That’s the dumbest way I’ve seen
To make a milk shake.

Other poems are more than just silly.
Memorizin' Mo
Mo memorized the dictionary
But just can’t seem to find a job
Or anyone who wants to marry
Someone who memorized the dictionary.

Shel Silverstein's books (including the newer Falling Up) in my bookcase.
As luck would have it, my love of poetry was further developed by a high school English teacher, a college German professor, and - wait for it! - a PBS special by Bill Moyers. The special had a companion book called The Language of Life. It features 34 American poets, a couple of works from each, as well as interviews. Some of them have since passed away, but several years ago I managed to get four of the poets' signatures by shlepping the book with me to various readings and events. 

It was from this TV show and book that I was introduced to my one of my favorite poets: Naomi 
Shihab Nye. She is what one can call an "accessible" poet, as her poems are typically easily understood, and have led me to further appreciate language as such.

I adore Nye's collection Fuel. While I was living in Kalamazoo for a short while after having graduated from college, my love for her poetry compelled me to drive for 90 minutes in the dark and the rain to hear her read and speak at a college in Grand Rapids. (This was pre-internet, but I had read a small announcement in the Kazoo paper about the event.) Below is one of Nye's poems that I love best.

If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has
swallowed it.

If you tuck the name of a loved one
under your tongue too long
without speaking it
it becomes blood
the little sucked-in breath of air
hiding everywhere
beneath your words.

No one sees
the fuel that feeds you.
A few of my poetry books.
Latviešu tautas dziesmas by the Latvian people (in Latvian)
It is impossible to imagine the Latvian culture without singing, and - in particular - its folk songs. Thanks mostly to the work of Krišjānis Barons in the late 1800s, we are fortunate to have written texts of many songs. Between 1894 and 1915, eight books containing a total of  217,996 four-line songs were published under the title "Latvju dainas." After World War II, the work was reprinted in Western Europe, and those are the books that I own - having inherited them from my grandparents (paldies, vectev, mati un mamma!). Having now sung with an a cappella Latvian folk music ensemble for over a decade, I have a sincere appreciation of our rich culture, and these volumes on my bookshelf are a reminder of the bountiful beautiful songs that Latvians are blessed to have.
My full set of volumes: Latviešu tautas dziesmas.
Which books have left an impact on you?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Life in these United States: Reality (aka Health Insurance Issues)

Recently I was complaining to a friend that being an adult can be a drag sometimes. Those times include: when you realize your car might need several hundred $ worth of work, which means finding time to take the car into the repair shop, hoping they don't rip you off, and then dealing with the bill, or when a doctor's office tries to charge you for something your insurance company should be covering, and you spend far too much time on the phone clarifying the situation so that you are not stuck with having to pay more than than necessary. This second point got me thinking about the U.S. health care system, and how it differs from those in most other countries. Because quite a few of my readers live in countries other than the U.S. (and some of you might be considering a move to the U.S. at some point), I thought it might be interesting to delve into some of the realities of life here because - as opposed to what American movies and TV shows might seem to imply - it is not necessarily the land of milk and honey! (N.B. - This is all based on my personal experience and knowledge, so - as the saying goes - your mileage may vary, or your experience might be different.)

Top 5 things to keep in mind about health insurance in the U.S.
  1. It's expensive.
  2. It is complicated.
  3. Just when you think it cannot be more expensive, it gets even more expensive.
  4. It is illogical.
  5. Making full use of it, and ensuring you are not being charged erroneously is time consuming.
Health insurance in the U.S. is employer-based, which means if you are unemployed, you might have it rough. Another caveat is that often one has to be a full-time employee (working forty or more hours a week) to qualify for certain benefits, such as health insurance or vacation time. Of course, the recently implemented Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") changed health insurance availability to some degree. Additionally, for quite a few years now, anyone poor enough can qualify for Medicaid, while most people over the age of 65 qualify for Medicare. These are, essentially, health insurance programs run by the federal government.
How's your blood pressure? (Source: CDC)
However, for the vast majority of us, health insurance is provided by our employer, whether that be a business, non-profit organization, or local/state/federal government agency. By "provided," I don't mean that your employer gives you a little insurance I.D. card, and says - go use, have fun, you won't have to pay a single dollar. Ha, far from it!

Very few companies fully pay their employers insurance premiums, which means that an employee has a certain amount deducted from each paycheck to help pay for their insurance. This number and percentage can vary wildly. My company, for example, for many years paid 50%, while the employee paid the other half; a couple of years ago the company (thankfully!) increased its percentage 60% and I pay the remaining 40%. The monetary amounts I'm talking about are not inconsequential. (More on that in a bit.)

Depending on the size of the company and what it has decided to offer, an employee's options vary. Sometimes there are only two health insurance options - with differing prices and coverage - while other times there might be several. You can typically make your choice only when you begin working at the company, or during an "open enrollment period," or during a short time frame in the late fall when you are presented with the new prices and updated options. It can be difficult to make a decision, as one never knows what the future holds (one friend recently decided to switch to an option for which premiums cost less per month , but charges more for out-of-pocket expenses for surgeries and the like, and several months later needed surgery, negating any savings on the premiums), and also because deciphering anything health insurance-related in this country requires a great deal of patience and more than a little bit of smarts.

To lay out some specifics, I receive a weekly paycheck, and $74.04 of each and every paycheck goes toward my health insurance premium. How much I earn is irrelevant - I would be paying that much if I were making $30,000 or $150,000 annually. My company offers five or six different health insurance options, and this is one of the more expensive in terms of weekly cost to me, yet it covers more than some of the cheaper options. When you do the math, it means that I am spending $3,850.08 annually just for my health insurance premiums! Additionally, if my company is covering 60% of the cost of this insurance, it means that the yearly sum which is paid for my health insurance totals about $9,600! Additionally, this does not include vision insurance (because why in the world would anyone need to see?!), nor does it include dental insurance (because who the heck needs teeth?!). I pay extra for both of those.

If this meant that I could waltz into any doctor's office and have all sorts of tests done, etc, that would be great, but that is not how the system functions. First, I have to make sure the doctor is "in network," meaning that this specific doctor works with my insurance company. Going "out of network" can have expensive consequences. Second, the insurance company has a complex chart that lays out what they cover, what they don't, what I will have to pay, and what I might need to pay. For example, to go see a doctor costs me $15 up front at the doctor's office. (Some insurance companies structure it so that seeing a generalist, such as a pediatrician, internist or ob-gyn, costs a smaller amount, say $20, while seeing a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon or neurologist costs a larger sum, such as $40.) However, if the doctor says - you need to have that x-rayed, you need blood work, etc., that's where it can get tricky and expensive. Again, I typically need to find out whether that will be "in network," then I hold my breath and hope it doesn't get too expensive.
Time for a flu shot! Luckily, the place I work provides them.
Each year I have to satisfy a "deductible." This is a sum that I need to cover for anything beyond a simple doctor's visit. Let's say I see a doctor at the beginning of the year. That will cost me $15, and will not count toward my deductible. However, during the appointment the doctor is concerned enough that she wishes for me to have Tests A, B and C. After these test have been performed and the claims processed by the insurance company, I receive an "explanation of benefits" from my insurance company. This document explains the following:
  • The "cost" of Test A is $200, but the rate negotiated between the doctor and insurance company is $70, so that is the amount I will have to pay.
  • Test B "costs" $130, the negotiated rate is $65.
  • Test C "costs" $94, the negotiated rate is $12.
Adding up the 70 + 65 + 12 = $147, and that amount has gone towards "satisfying my deductible." In other words, I have not yet reached my deductible. However, if I then sprain my ankle, and get it x-rayed and the amount I have to pay for the x-ray is $110, then (by adding the $110 to $147 for a total of $257), I have reached my deductible. Then, for the rest of the year any test will cost me 20% of the negotiated rate. Let's say, a test "costs" $400, the negotiated rate is $139, so the amount I owe is $27.80 (i.e. 20% of the $139).

Confused yet?!? Yes, pity the person who has many health problems, or who is in a serious accident, or has suffers from anything serious such as cancer. I have seen massive piles or files of papers - explanation of benefits, bills, reminders, etc - on the desks and kitchen tables of such people.

As you can see, health insurance and health care are quite confusing in the U.S., and it can be argued that it rates rather high as a stressor for quite a few people. As a matter of fact, a disturbingly high percentage (around 20% from what I've read) of personal bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical bills. While the United States is wonderful in regards to many factors, the cost and complexity of health care is not one of those.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cool Conference on (Slightly Geeky) Latvian Stuff

How does a community preserve its history? That was the basic question posed at the Second Latvian Archive, Library, and Material Culture Conference. While the title of this event is enough to put many people to sleep, the conference was fascinating and incredibly relevant for most Latvian- Americans. Because - really - when your grandmother, who had been active on the boards of two different organizations and a member of many more, and an avid reader, passes away, do you have any idea what to do with all of her old papers, books and Latvian knick-knacks? Yeah - I didn't think so! Although the conference touched on many more in-depth (and - for many of us - not-as-relevant) topics, the issues raised and various resources mentioned were generally very interesting.

The first day was most interesting, as that took place at the Library of Congress in downtown Washington. I rode Metro to Union Station, then walked several blocks to the Library's Madison building, which is just one of three building the Library occupies near the Capitol. It was September 11, and it was sobering to see all flags at half-staff. I was working in DC, just a few blocks from the White House, on that day, and I - like all Washingtonians and New Yorkers - remember the events all too well.
Union Station with flags at half-staff

Lovely fountain at Jefferson building
The Jefferson Building is the original and best-known LOC structure; the Madison building is modern and not as lovely, although the sixth floor room in which we met had large windows and some great views of DC. The conference was kicked off with opening remarks by a whole slew of dignitaries and VIPs. I was most excited to hear the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, speak. His area of expertise is Russia, and it turns out that he was one of the first Americans to visit Soviet-occupied Latvia in 1958. We were further welcomed by Ambassador Razāns, Rep. John Shimkus of the Baltic Caucus, John Medveckis who is both Honorary Consul for Latvia in Pennsylvania and a trustee of the LOC, Jānis Kukainis of the World Federation of Free Latvians, and American Latvian Association Chair Anita Bataraga.
Dr. Billington, Librarian of Congress
Rep. Shimkus

The meat of the conference began with the keynote speaker, Grant Harris, Head of the Library's European Division. He spoke a bit about the Library's history, its collection policies (the idea that they might have everything ever published is a myth!), and items in its collection related to Latvia. The basic take-away was that if you are doing any research on Latvia, the Library is a wonderful place to find materials. Just by searching "Latvian" in the Library's catalog, I came up with over 6,000 items, and that does not include periodicals!
Grant Harris
The rest of the day included lunch (the LOC cafeteria was surprisingly good, and not too expensive), and a couple of sessions on various collections and archives both here and in Latvia. For example, the University of Washington, home to a Baltic Studies program, has a collection of 1,200 pieces of Baltic music, including 730 choral scores. The presenter, Heather Garbes, said "the Baltics are hot right now." As examples she mentioned the fact that last year thirty students had studied Lithuanian at UW, and that works by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds is incredibly popular among choirs around the world. (My personal favorite Ešenvalds piece is Dvēseles dziesma, i.e. The Soul's Song.) Latvians might be interested to hear that later when I asked Heather what her favorite Latvian choral piece is, she instantly answered: Saule, Pērkons, Daugava.
Being as erudite as they are, Cory & Linda discuss Latvian art.
I was glad to have lunch with my old friend Liga.
Another speaker, Elga Zālīte of Stanford, spoke about the personal archives of Rev. Zariņš, who was minister in the New York City Latvian Lutheran congregation for fifty years. He was instrumental in helping many Latvians as they arrived in the U.S. from displaced persons camps in Germany in the late 1940s and early 1950s. For example, the notes he kept in his calendars indicate that he personally met many incoming ships in NY harbor - sometimes even twice in one day. Apparently, Rev. Zariņš' many letters and other papers offer a rather detailed glimpse into the lives of Latvians as they sought to take refuge and build new lives in America.

One of the Library of Congress research center's is The American Folklife Center, and Ann Hoog showed us some interesting things from their collection. Imagine my surprise when up on the screen popped up photographs from my Latvian Saturday school back in 1982, when I was already a student there! It had been a part of a larger project funded by the Center, and she mentioned that the collection contained quite a few photographs, with names listed. The few she showed did not picture me (or my mom, who was a teacher at the school, nor my younger sister who was also a student at the time), but I recognized at least a couple of my former teachers, and Ann said there are many more and that I'm welcome to stop by and look at them sometime.

Ginta Zalcmane of the National Library of Latvia informed us of several current and a couple of potential new projects. One interesting website hosted by the Library is called Zudusī Latvija, or In Search of Lost Latvia. Anyone can upload an old photograph and description, and others using the site can further enhance the description if they happen to know more. The site already contains many lovely old photos which let us learn more about life in Latvia in earlier times. I, too, have decided to add some of my family's old photographs to the site this fall. She also mentioned the website (praised by several researchers over the course of the conference), which contains over 100 newspaper and magazine titles. For anyone wishing to find information about past events either in Latvia or in Latvian communities around the world, this is an incredibly useful resource. A quick search turned up a number of articles in Latvian-American publications written by my father or by me, as well as articles which mentioned numerous members of my family.

Later in the afternoon we were treated to a visit to the Map and Geography Division where we were able to examine a number of rare historical maps of Latvia. The funniest thing was the LOC employee who scurried around excitedly snapping photos of us looking at the maps -- apparently it is rare for them to have such a large group of people who are so interested to see a part of their collection. We were also given a short tour of the public part of the Jefferson building, which is absolutely stunning. If you are ever in DC, I highly recommend visiting!
Just one map of Latvia we were able to scrutinize.
Conference attendees examine historical maps of Latvia in Map & Geography Division
The top part of a patriotic map of Latvia created in Western Europe after WWII.
Overlooking the Jefferson Reading Room.
Thomas Jefferson's library: some are the original books he owned!
After our tour, some friends and I took Metro to Dupont Circle, where they were staying, then ate dinner at Zorba's Cafe, which I also highly recommend. Fully satiated with Greek food, we headed to the Embassy of Latvia for an art exhibit opening and reception. Art on exhibit were prints by Latvian-American artist Janis Šternbergs, who came to the U.S. and made Kentucky his home. He is not well known in the Latvian-American community, but Sarma Liepiņš is a fan, and collects his art, so the exhibit was curated by her. Then I dragged my tired self home, as I had another full conference day to look forward to.
Prints by Janis Sternbergs
Old and new friends
On Friday we were hosted by the Embassy, and we heard a number of additional interesting talks. Cory McLeod works at the advertising agency Olson in the Twin Cities. The agency did a pro bono project for the Riga Ghetto Museum in which they created a map of the ghetto so that one can take a virtual tour of the ghetto using modern-day Google street view, while hearing memories from survivors. The map is chilling, but unfortunately it is a painful part of Latvian history, and it is interesting to see modern technology used to make history more understandable.

The most practical session in some respects was presented by Dace Ķezbers of Chicago and Sarma Liepiņš of Boston. Both often get called upon to help sort through belongings of Latvians who've passed away, and they had some rather useful tips. Sarma said that one should keep an eye out for small containers, such as little boxes and tins. She said those sometimes contain surprising or meaningful items: sand or small amber pieces from Latvia, ashes of a deceased relative, or even gold teeth. Sarma estimated that a gold tooth can be worth around $600 nowadays. Dace also mentioned leafing through books, as occasionally those contain items of note - either the author's or someone else's signature(s), old event programs, photographs, or even money.

Representing the Latvian National Archives, Inese Kalniņa, informed us about resources available from their website, such as the genealogical research site Raduraksti, which one of my cousins in Latvia has used to find quite a bit about my maternal grandfather's side of the family. (However, I will mention that my efforts to find information about my father's side of the family were quickly thwarted when I realized how difficult it was: information is handwritten, often in German and using strange abbreviations, etc.) The archives also possess an enormous card catalog about Latvian displaced persons in post-war Germany that was organized by the Red Cross, but my understanding was that this wealth of information is currently being digitized, and it will be a while before it is available for research use.

Dinner involved a group of twelve conference attendees and presenters returning to Zorba's where we quickly commandeered an entire corner of the second floor dining room for a filling Greek dinner.

Saturday was a short day, with only a couple of hours of discussions and workshops at the Latvian church hall in Rockville. Cory showed us how we could - if we had the time and resources (seeing as the software has to be purchased at $50/month) - create an app, which was interesting, but not something I plan to do anytime soon! Additionally, I participated in a small work group in which we discussed recommendations to be made to the American Latvian Association on further actions. This was already the second such conference, and we all agreed that another conference in two years - preferably on the West coast (seeing as the first one was held in the Twin Cities, in the Midwest) - would be a good idea. Various other suggestions were discussed, but - as always - the limiting factors of time and money are an issue.

Overall the conference was very interesting, and I am incredibly glad I was able to attend.

Friday, September 19, 2014

One of My Favorite Places: C&O Canal Celebrates 60 Years

This morning I was surprised to read an interesting article about the C&O Canal National Park in the Washington Post. It turns out I knew nothing at all about the history of the Park, and I'm glad this article taught me a thing or two! Basically, the story boils down to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and his wife hiking in the park many weekends, then hearing about a 1954 plan to build a highway along or over the area, and finding a clever way to protest this. The highway plan was abandoned, and in 1954 President Eisenhower designated the canal and towpath a national monument. Although many people outside of the DC area have not heard of the park, it is the ninth most popular park in the country, given that five million people visit annually!

Over the weekend I hope to finally finish my post about the great Latvian conference I attended last week, but in the meantime I plan to enjoy the sparkling weather we are having -- maybe even with a hike along the C&O!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Links for You!

In my experience earlier this year, roads in Lithuania were generally in better shape than roads in Latvia, but these folks disagree and found a hilarious way to highlight their displeasure.

This article about a woman of Latvian heritage who became a special agent is fascinating!

Hope you are having a good week! We are blessed with beautiful weather here in the DC area, but my days mostly consist of sitting in the office, so am very much looking forward to the weekend...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Library of Congress (Quickly)

For three days I am participating in a conference organized by the American Latvian Association. Each day takes place in a different location, and yesterday we were in the Library of Congress. I am ashamed to say that in my fifteen years of living in the DC area, the LOC was an American institution I had not yet visited, but I am grateful I was able to rectify that! The Library is spread out over three buildings near the Capitol, but the Jefferson building is the oldest, best known and most stunning. The majority of the day we were in a modern conference room on the sixth floor of the Madison building, but we were given the typical tour of the Jefferson, as well. Here are just a couple of photographs, and I will write more about this wonderful experience later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Links for You

Reading what other folks have to say about their adventures in Latvia is fascinating! Here are just two recent blog posts for you to enjoy.

Heather of Ferreting Out the Fun had a fun-filled summer weekend Liepaja.

Ryan at Treksplorer loved the gorgeous architecture in Riga during his short visit.

Later this week I'm participating in a Latvian-American conference in DC; I am very much looking forward to it, and presume I will have many interesting experiences to write about soon! Hope you are having a good week!

Monday, September 8, 2014

3-Day Weekend and Take a Trip: Antietam Battlefield

There are few things better in life than three-day weekends! My Labor Day weekend included attending a baby shower and a fun end-of-summer party, which was luckily held indoors, seeing as the day was mostly uncomfortably hot and humid, with occasional torrential downpours.

On Labor Day itself, which was also ridiculously hot and sticky, my travel buddy Bryan and I took a little road trip out toward Western Maryland. First we visited Antietam National Battlefield, which is where the Civil War's bloodiest battle took place. Our initial stop was the visitor center, where I was pleasantly surprised by the colorful flowers both in the flower beds out front and in pretty arrangements in the ladies' restroom. They added much needed color to a somber and history-heavy place.
The exhibits in the visitors center were quite interesting and informative, and the bookstore sold all of the typical books, postcards, etc., but also hats. The hats worn by the troops didn't do much for me, but a top hat similar to one worn by President Lincoln suited me quite well.
Visiting Antietam entailed a driving tour with about ten stops, many of which - honestly - are not that interesting, unless you are a true Civil War buff. So, we skipped some of the stops, but did made sure to check out the more interesting ones.

Observation tower built by War Department later for training purposes
Burnside Bridge - site of one battle that day, and 150yr old sycamore tree that witnessed the battle and is still standing!
Cemetery where only a fraction of soldiers are buried
After Antietam, we paid a visit to the little town of Boonsboro, which nowadays is best known due its association with romance novelist Nora Roberts, who also write mysteries as J.D. Robb. She lives nearby, and owns a bookstore called Turn the Page, along with several other businesses. 

Her impact on the town was highlighted in this article in the Washington Post. After lunch at Kristi's Cafe, we stopped at the bookstore, which is heavy on the Roberts and Robb titles. One entire room of the shop is full of her books; as you can see, she is a prolific author. 

Before leaving town and trying to avoid the area's single rain cloud, I couldn't resist taking a photo of another store's sign.
Restaurant, guns and ammunition - Only in America!
Soon the sun was shining once again, and next we stopped at Gathland State Park, which back in the late 1800s had been the home of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend. He had constructed a number of building on the property, but only a couple remain. One is the vault in which he'd hoped to be buried, although that did not happen. One of the two remaining buildings features an exhibit about Townsend and his life, while the other has exhibits on what it was like to be a Civil War journalist. Also located in the park is the War Correspondents Memorial Arch, dedicated in 1896. Townsend solicited donations from the likes of J.P. Morgan, and had the arch built to honor Civil War correspondents.
War Correspondents Memorial Arch
Tomb where Townsend hoped to be buried
Former summer dining room
The Appalachian Trail runs through the park, so we took a mini-hike on that. From there we drove to the town of Brunswick, as I had heard about a unique cafe,  Beans in the Belfry, located in an old church. If you are ever in the area, this establishment is well worth a stop! Most everything on the menu - from coffee drinks to iced tea to ice cream sundaes - sounded delicious. Of the items we sampled, I was very happy with my gazpacho (available for a limited time due to a special Frederick County "farm-to-fork" special menu) and my tropical iced tea. Bryan's frozen lemonade was too tart, but he praised the carrot cake. With its many tables and different seating areas, Beans in the Belfry is an ideal spot for a lazy afternoon with a book and latte; if I lived in the area, I would certainly be a regular customer!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Social Season Begins: Reception at House of Sweden

Summer is a quieter time in terms of Latvian and other such events. Labor Day heralded the end of summer (sob! More on my long weekend adventures later), and two days after that I attended a reception at the House of Sweden, a modern building on the Potomac River in Georgetown. It houses the Embassy of Sweden, as well as the Embassy of Iceland, as well as plenty of space for events. In conjunction with Rīga and Sweden's Umea being this year's Culture Capitals of Europe, the Latvian and Swedish embassies cooperated to present an exhibit of beautiful tapestries by Latvian artist Iveta Vecenāne. The tapestries are bit difficult to photograph, but here are a few pics from the evening. The light colored ones include thread made from amber! More info about the exhibit can be found here. The exhibit can be viewed on Saturdays (11am - 4pm) and Sundays (12pm - 5pm) through September 21
Seashore scenes
One of my favorites - I love the colors!
This one looked much better in real life!
With friends S and Z enjoying the new social season!