The freedom to drive myself around Latvia has also brought with it an unintended consequence: isolated from the outside for hours and hours at a time, I was cutting myself out of opportunities to interact with people from this country. The bus ride from Tallinn to Riga at least provided neighbors and a chance for conversation. So would the ride to Vilnius, when the time came to move on to Lithuania, I was sure. It’s the days in between that I was wondering about.
It is funny how life works sometimes, and I find great personal satisfaction in observing each instance of what is called (rather incorrectly, I believe) “coincidence”. No sooner than the thought formed that I was missing out on what should be a part of this whole experience of traveling, when a young hitchhiking couple came into view on the right shoulder. I pulled right over.
Of the two, she was the English speaker. His linguistic prowess was limited to Latvian, with vague signs of a recent swipe at German. Both were friendly, but once we established his limitations in German, the guy switched to full-time listening. She was very amicable and explained that they are both students in Riga, traveling to visit with her parents out west. I asked her to show me on the map where it was they were headed, and we figured out a likely spot for them to get out on their continued journey home. During the hour and a half we all spent together in the small grey hatchback, she talked about how excited she was for the post-college future, and about how important the United States is for her country. Regarding the latter point, we couldn’t really get to the bottom of her version of “why”, as her English and my Russian just didn’t take us that far. Regarding the first, it was nice to see the optimism of someone whose parents must have had a very different outlook on things at that age.
The couple got out at a bus-stop about 45 minutes from Liepaja. I spent the remainder of the trip replaying the conversation in the car, and marveled at the power radiating out of these two – from her in a vocal, positive manner, and from him the way quiet, self-assured people come across to others around them. Euripides, Greek playwright from around 500 B.C., admonishes us to “leave no stone unturned”. People should be so lucky to have the luxury of time necessary to comply with such great advice. Desperate people probably already do so. I had no real conscious plan to overturn any stones during my trip, yet was rewarded by the company for a short while of these two all the same.
I’ve got some stories from Liepaja, and – for that half of you that are following along solely for the pictures – I’ll make sure there are a few of those as well in the next post. Take care!