Tuesday, May 26, 2015

European Month of Culture

May is the European Month of Culture in DC, when the European country embassies organize a variety of cultural events. May 9 was European Union Open House Day, during which all of the EU embassies are open to the public for six hours. I spent most of the day at the Embassy of Latvia, first singing with my folk music ensemble, then helping answer visitors' questions about the historic building and about Latvia itself. Wearing my folk costume means that I also had my photo taken many, many times.

The Embassy of Latvia also hosted two well-known writers one evening. Poet Liāna Langa and novelist Nora Ikstena read some of their work in Latvian, and translator Margita Gailītis read the same pieces in English. Between that evening, and the after-party following the open house (in which they also participated), I had the pleasure of getting to know all three women a bit. It was interesting to hear that the London Book Fair will be featuring the three Baltic countries in 2018, which means there is currently a special effort underway to translate more Latvian literature into other languages, particularly English because that is a gateway to other languages.
Liana Langa on the left, Nora Ikstena on the right
My signed copy of Ikstena's "Life Stories"
To attend this year's Eurovision-viewing party, a friend and I made our way to an embassy-lined cul de sac and the Embassy of Austria. While the party itself was not quite as comfortable (sitting on a hardwood floor!) or well-organized as last year's, we had a lot of fun enjoying the contest itself and cheering for Latvia's entry, the singer Aminata with her song "Love Injected." While Sweden won the contest, Latvia finished in a very respectable sixth place out of a total of 27 countries who made it through to the final. 
Cheering on Latvia with our mini Latvian flags
Although we were not gifted with handy Eurovision post-it notes this time around, we did each receive a nifty Vienna pen. If this type of Eurovision-viewing party continues, then next year's party would be slated to take place at the Embassy of Sweden, which is housed in a beautiful modern building on the Potomac River in Georgetown - I hope I will be able to attend!

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