Home Again

And we’re back! We made it safely back to Newark, NJ at 12:40pm this afternoon. After a 7 hour flight from Sweden and a flight from Riga. As with every travel flight plan there are always snags. For example when we arrived at Riga, AirBaltic told us we could not have a backpack and a carryon. Some people were able to fit there backpack in the suitcase, but others had to check one of their carry-ons. And even then some paid 40 euros, others 80 euros. It was a bit confusing.

Our layover was only 10 minutes apart from landing till boarding started. I was the last one on the plane and felt like I was in the movie Home Alone. A bit too close for me. Thankfully the gates were close together. 

We arrived at Derry at 4:15pm, that’s where I departed so, not sure about when they arrived at the Presbytery, but everyone got there safely by now.

Thank you so much for following our story. I had fun telling it, I hope you had fun reading about it. Till next time.

-Lynn 

Day 16: We aren’t lost, we’re exploring….Riga

10:30pm

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We departed from our home for the past we at 9am. This picture was the last time we were all together as a group for our trip, since today is our last day before traveling. I didn’t realized it at the time, but now it makes me very said. We have been a fantastic group. No conflicts, drama, or anything we can complain about in the scheme of things. 

The trip to Riga was very entertaining due to the fact we all got pulled over for the drivers to take a breathalyzer test. Thankfully everyone passed and we made it to Riga before 11am. We tried to check in to our hotel, but it was too early, so we all left our stuff there and headed to old town with Zane.

From there we all parted ways. I hit most of the popular sites to visit, so here is what I did. First stop was at Riga Dome Cathedral where there is perfect acoustics.  They have daily organ concerts and as we passed by, the last one started for the day at noon. Several of us went in to hear it.

Afterwords lunch called and we did a mix of italian and latvian food. It was all delicious to say the least! We then went to the St. Peter’s Church where there is a lovely tower and a fantastic view of the city. The elevator ride–no stairs, finally– was very small and cramped but it was totally worth it. 

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We also saw the Soviet Occupation Museum which was very interesting, but very sobering and I’m for one very thankful I’ve gone to it. Fun fact: the square where the museum is located is where the first Christmas tree was placed 500 years ago.  

After the museum we wondered the streets for dinner and window shopped as we explored Riga. Then headed back to the hotel, but first put my feet in the river that leads out to the baltic. It’s very cold, but it was a lot of fun too. 

Our buses leave for the airport tomorrow at 6:30am. Our flight is around 9:30 which takes us to Stockholm, Sweden, and there we will catch our flight back home to USA. There is only an hour layover so hopefully we make it on our connecting flight in time. We should arrive back in the Central PA area around 4-6. In case I don’t get to post again till we get back home, that’s the plan. Hopefully it stays that way.

Thanks again for the prayers, support, love and everything you do. Till next time…

-Lynn  

Day 15: Goodbye to Our Latvian Friends

1:00am 

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“Never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” -Peter Pan Let me tell you,  we will never forget this past week here in Latvia. Many of us were so touched by the family we met and feel in love with. All of they are so loving and kind, and show you what a family truly is.

The builders for “the chicken mansion” left a little after 8:30. The arts and crafts left a bit later at 9:00, and made a very small pitstop at the information center for some last minute souvenirs before heading off to Riga tomorrow. The children were so ready to see us. I was very touched because many of the girls dressed up in fancy dresses and high heels. Most of these children are shoeless and dirty 90% of the time, and are dirty from playing on a farm. And it’s not because they don’t have shoes, they choose not to wear them. Bill told me the other day that children on farms both here and in America like to be barefoot and feel the earth below them. But not today, proper, clean and with shoes. If it was to say goodbye to us, which I think it was, I was very moved.

We held a caravel with the children, with the same games as last week. Wee had a nice big hall which let us spread out a bit more and do games like sack races. We didn’t give out tickets this week, and it made life a little less crazy. Music also was playing, although this group didn’t dance as much as they did last week. At the end instead of collecting tickets and having them pick prizes we handed them their bag (that they made yesterday) which magically filled with prizes and gifts since yesterday.

Lunch was a lovely soup. Indoors again because it rained all morning–poor chicken coop builders! They went straight off back to work afterwords. No scheduled arts and crafts for kids after lunch but some came in and colored. We enjoyed eating watermelon together in the afternoon as well. Then the arts and crafts people headed back to the hotel.

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I stayed back and entertained a few kids, and the builders finished their work. They finally finished around 6pm, just in time for dinner back at the hotel. Ivo, the pastor and son-in-law to be to the couple who own the home, ate dinner with us and we enjoyed each others’ company.

The rest of the evening was ours to do as we liked. I got a few people to film for the movie I’m making about the trip. Most people packed for tomorrow, for we leave our home here and head to Riga. We will explore the city tomorrow before we leave to come on a plane and hopefully see most of you soon.

As always, thanks for your love, prayers, and support. We wouldn’t be here without you. Thanks for being the best!

-Lynn

Day 14: A Latvian Birthday

1:00 am

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Today was just an another ordinary day. We had our morning devotions after breakfast, where we discussed what our reflections have been about ourselves on this trip. Then the builders for the chicken mansion lead by their fearless leader Matt, left early to setup. The arts and crafts team a little later since the children wake up later and they don’t want us to wake them earlier than they need to be awake. 

When the arts and crafts team got there, the children slowly trickled in, most wearing their tie-dye t-shirts that we made earlier in the week. We worked on decorating draw string bags for the children to collect prizes at the carnival tomorrow. They seemed to have a good time. The next craft was a piece of paper that told Jesus’ story from birth to resurrection. With help from our translator Zane, we told the story and with each piece of his story we would have them put a sticker or drawing or something next to that part of the story on the piece of paper. They seemed to like it, and had a few theological questions for us. After the finished the bags, they worked on coloring and other small crafts and games. 

Another group of us was hard at work all morning weeding the garden all morning, and into the afternoon as well. Our group bought plants for the home, and we were putting the plants in around the home for them.   

Lunch was a successful picnic outside without any rain! Yay! (Although there was some rain throughout the day) After lunch we got to celebrate a Latvian Birthday! Our very our Madison Neimer from Mechanisburg Pres. Church turned 19 today. The children’s home, which they hate to be called, so The Latvian Family we are helping hear rumors about this and brought out a cake for her as they sung Happy Birthday in Latvian. Once the cake was blown out, they pulled her in a blanket and everyone–Latvian and American alike gathered round gripping the end of the blanket. Together arm and arm, the Latvians sung her a Latvian lullaby as they rocked her back and forth. After they finished they tossed her up in the air up and down 19 times. They told us that there was a man who turned 75 and they still tossed him in the air 75 times! It was so kind and gracious for them to celebrate her birthday in such a family like manor when they only knew her for three days. Seeing that really made my day and saw how they really think of us as family, and it was so loving and sweet. 

After lunch the builders went back to work on their chicken mansion and the children worked on scrapbooking, or more like putting stickers in a book with a name of a family member on each page. It was very touching and very cute. They spent over an hour working on these books too. These children have very short attention spans and it was encouraging to see them stick with it so long too.

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The hardworking builders stayed late, and almost were late to dinner tonight because they were so determined to finish the whole project today. 😛 That didn’t quite happen. They did however finish the back wall entirely and almost both side walls. They are up to about six blocks high on the side walls, full height is seven blocks high. The front wall was even started. The hardest part is to come tomorrow, but they did an amazing job today.

Dinner with chicken on a stick. Probably one of the only meals that my Dad would eat–picky eaters heaven, along with salad. Dessert was traditional Latvian birthday cake and ice cream for Madison’s birthday. She received some gifts from the group, and got to open them.

After dinner they all loved me, because I followed them around asking them to film them for a special video for all of you. They probably all hate me now and will come back home and tell you about this crazy girl named Lynn who followed them around with a camera. They were mostly all very friendly and obliging. The rest enjoyed an evening off, and got to relax and chat with each other or plan for tomorrows activities.

Some of our group woke up sick again today and stayed behind. Most all of us are fighting coughs, sore throats and runny noses, so prayers please as we hopefully heal before we get on the plane for 8 hrs. Thank you for your love, prayers and support. We look forward to seeing you in three days as much as we hate saying goodbye here.

-Lynn     

Day 13: Fish Tales

9:45pm 

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Good afternoon, evening friends and family! Today was a lovely day. The work crew for the chicken house, which we termed, “The Chicken Mansion” because it is so much larger than a typical chicken house, left earlier than normal at 8:15am to get a head start to the day.

The rest of the group came around nine to do arts and crafts and other projects. We started with coloring and moved on making God’s Eyes when the children came out. One boy, Edwin, who has some mental disabilities saw music notes and starting singing Do, Re, Mi, etc. Someone from our group starting singing “Doe, a Deer” from The Sound of Music, and this made Edwin and the other children so happy we continue to sing it several times over again. They would ask for other songs. They definitely knew the songs and it was fun to share the joy of music between our two cultures.

We hung the tie die shirts up to dry and many of the children took them off and started wearing them while they were still wet, they were so excited to have them.

A few members of our group got to garden today as well. We had an outdoor picnic for lunch, but it started raining halfway through and we had to move everything indoors. A little hectic, but fun nonetheless.

The crew creating the chicken house worked out in the sun all day. They are reach five blocks high in some areas. There will be eight blocks high total. We also carved out several window frames. This is no ordinary chicken house, it’s a chicken mansion!

The afternoon for children activities was a little more laid back. There was jump rope, frisbee, duck duck goose, singing of “Doe, a Deer” and other short activities for the children’s attention spans.

Dinner this evening was cold beet soup, a whole fish (a traditional Latvian dish but to the dislike of many of animal friendly group members). It was my first time eating a entire fish and had a hard time with it, but became very skilled thanks to other skilled members of the group.

Evening was free time for everyone. Some people did laundry, others took walks or went to a pub down the street, or prepped for arts and crafts for tomorrow.

Thanks for all your love, prayers and support as we finish up our trip. Have a lovely night.

-Lynn

Day 12: Sigula

10:50pm 

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Hello wonderful blog followers!

Hope you’re having a great day! Today was a day where we recharged our batteries here in Latvia. It was much needed after hard labor, sickness and cold rainy days the past few days.

Another round of people woke up sick this morning, so prayers for those trying to recover please!

We woke up to a very rainy day here in Latvia. Since it was the Jani celebration yesterday and all of Latvia stayed up till morning most Latvians sleep in late today. Originally the children’s home did not want us to come today, but because brick wasn’t at the home yesterday and they got a late start building the chicken home, the builders at least were going to go. Then last night the mother said she would like to have some arts and crafts if the children woke up. So we all got up normally–even though some people stayed up late with the bonfire with them–to get to work. With the crazy rain and what looked like rain to continue all day (and since the glue needed a dry environment to dry) we decided best not to go, and to continue with our original plan for the day with exploring the town.

We first went to Sigula Castle, where we went to celebrate Jani Sunday night. It is German built in the 13-15th c. but continued to be built until the 18th c. There was a tall tower which most people climbed to get a nice view of the local area. Breathtaking for sure!

After visiting the castle, we had lunch in Sigula at a hotel restaurant. It was delicious, and while I didn’t get the cheesecake I’m told it was one of the best people have eaten.

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Once we finished with lunch and paid the bill–which took forever! Some of us walked to a cable car, others drove. Both groups got lost, it was quite funny actually. But we finally made it to the cable car and got a lovely areal view of the local area. The other side of the cable car has a manor house which got ruined with the Russians (they lived in it), and it’s very rundown at the moment. They are trying to fix it though, so hopefully in a few years it will be looking better.

After the cable ride home we arrived back at the hotel five minutes before dinner. It was amazing as always, although everyone had mixed reviews on the traditional Latvian dessert, Berry Soup, which I thought was more like melted jello. There is a picture under the photo tab if you want to check it out. After dinner we all tried to be somewhat relaxed. A lot of the sickies went straight to bed. Hopefully tomorrow everyone wakes up fully cured of what they have. I would love to get rid of this sore throat, runny nose and cough personally!

As always thanks for your love and support. Hope you have a great evening!

-Lynn

Day 11: Jani Day!

9:30pm 

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Happy Jani Day! This is the summer festival here in Latvia. It’s a holiday where they celebrate the shortest night of the year. All of Latvia stay up all night long–or till the sun goes down which is maybe 3 or 4am. The tradition of this day is to pick wildflowers which become magic when you pick them, and create wreaths of flowers on your head. The women will give a man a wreath and that man is stuck to that woman for the rest of the night. 

We arrived at the children’s home at nine. One group is working on building a chicken house, they needed supplies so they went to go get them on arrival. Another group setup children’s arts and crafts. We made name tags and tie die t-shirts today which the kids loved! Another group moved fire wood around, and another group hung paintings in a hall building. 

Once the children finished the arts and crafts they took us to pick wildflowers for Jani day. We hiked a long way to do this and had quite an adventure. When we finally arrived home, and the supply run came back we had lunch. 

After lunch, the chicken house was started. Wreaths were made. Firewood was moved for the bonfire, and all kinds of adventures. The children’s home also created a treasure map for us to do with the kids, which was a lot of hiking, but quite an activity. We had to cut it a little short to eat the Jani feast made by the children’s home. What food we had, and it was wonderful to have a child attached to us on the first day, and it didn’t take longer than that to bond with them. We were all stuffed! 

Some people left shortly after, others stayed for the bonfire and still there now. We will see who makes it to see the sunrise tonight. Wish us luck! 

Thanks for your love, prayers, and support. Have a fantastic day/night! 

Lynn