Friday, October 21, 2005

Excercise is Good - Walking is Dangerous

How do they know ? - what you may ask - How do they (the Latvians) know that I am a foreigner ? - I think I look perfectly normal, OK I carry a handbag, but so do many Latvian men, I occasionally wear a bow tie, but it cannot be that.
But there must be something about me and all other non Latvians, that make us stand out.

Because without exception I (we) get approached either for money or whatever, and they know I am not from Latvia - How ? - do I have a hidden halo sign that says Foreigner ?

Speaking of being out and about, and if you remember my warning about crossing streets, of equal danger is the Latvian pedestrian , they want to walk through you. No matter where you are walking, and I walk everywhere, I have to keep my eyes open for those members of the public you apparently cannot see me, and just walk straight towards me, and if I did not take evasive action ( NB You have to take evasive action as Latvian pedestrian will not ).

If you have been on the dodgems at a fair ground you will get a rough idea of what I mean.

So to anyone planning to visit Riga, be warned, if you think it is only Latvian drivers who are dangerous, just wait till you meet the pedestrians !

One my small observations whilst I walk through and around Riga, is the vast number of hairdressers and shoe shops, If I could relate shops to disease, then we have an epidemic of hairdressers and shoe shops.

In Riga alone there over 638 registered Hairdresser/beauty salons and 521 shoe shops. Remember this is a city of less than 1 million people. Within 30 metres of my apartment, there are five hairdressers.

The sheer number of these establishments may in part be explained by the apparent fascination that Latvian Women have for changing there hair style / colour at every opportunity, and in particular with the changing of the seasons -blond for summer - auburn for Autumn & red for Winter.

The majority of the Latvian males just seem to have there hair shaved - so no problem there. As far as I can tell there is no such thing as a gentleman's hairdresser - they are all Unisex.

In days of old one simply went in, ( remember when they were called Barbers ? - And you were invariably asked "Anything else Sir ??" - and we all knew what was meant by that) - but you just sat down had your hair cut and you were out -but not in Riga.

Here is the basics which I experience on each and every encounter- and I promise you it takes at least an hour

1. Hair Washed ( 5 minutes)
2. Hair then carefully cut with Scissors & Comb ( 15 minutes)
3. You are asked do you want your Hands/feet manicured ( Before you ask my answer is NO)
4. Electric hair trimmer applied ( which leads one to ask why bother with step 2 ?) - (15 minutes)
5. Trim hair in nose and ears -this requires a steady hand to avoid bloodletting - (10 minutes)
6. Hair is washed again ( why ?) - 5 minutes)
7. Are you sure you do not want hands/feet manicured ? ( Still No)
8. Blow dry hair ( In my case this should take about 5 seconds- but last for another 5 minutes)
9. Final trim and application of weird gel as my hair is "styled" ( 5 minutes)

As an aside I have yet to meet a male hairdresser, although I am sure they exist.

Now speaking of shoes, I can only assume that Latvian males have strange shaped feet, or alternatively weird fashion tastes in shoes, because for the life of me I cannot find a single shoe shop that sells standard classic designed shoes. Casual ones yes , but normal shoes- No. I can get pointed ones, blunt ones, one with toes that curl upwards. I guess I am out of step with current fashion.

With Winter fast approaching I am once again seeking to buy overshoes, they are here somewhere, but in 10 years I still cannot find them, and walking with leather soled shoes only adds to the danger of walking in Riga.

As I have indicated in the past there are some things in Latvia that just work and surpass anything I have ever experienced elsewhere. I came across one of these earlier this week.

I had the occasion to take a car for its annual Test ( MOT in the UK). In Latvia all cars must undergo this test every year, irrespective of age.

Here is the actual sequence of events for this test, which includes a full check of all basic items, lights, brakes, exhaust emmissions, suspension, etc ( 42 checks in total) - by way of fully automated test station.

08.20 - Arrive, go to cash desk and pay for test - Ls22.00 and alloted Bay number
0.825 - Enter Test area and drive into bay number 6 - to be greeted in English by Test Engineer (The language skills here are unreal)
0.840 - Test Completed and test certificate stuck onto Windscreen
08.45 - Leave test station, Test Completed

Total time - 25 minutes - try that for size in the UK, where you have to book well in advance to get your MOT done, and probably say goodbye to the car for the best part of the morning/afternoon.

So despite all of the moans and groans which I often make about living and working in Riga, there are many things which just make say "Wow !"

And finally (nearly) - had the occasion to go into an International School, specialising in teaching English, went up to the receptionist to make my query- But she only spoke Russian - Mmmmmmmmmmm ??

Now this is the final picture update for today, and is especially for all my Australian friends - and I make no comments as to its implications

To all and sundry have a good weekend - for me I will be hoping to watch a little Rugby, and catch up on my domestic chores. The former will be carried out in a secret Cretin free bar, if J.... ( Australian) has managed to arrange same - Cheers !


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