Peters Traces His RootsOctober, 1994
Being the third trip in two years, visiting my relatives is becoming an annual visit. My prior two trips were each, in their way, a revelation. The first time, everything was new: relatives I had sent clothes to, but had never met; places I had heard of, but had never seen. Growing up "Latvian" meant elementary Sunday school in Latvian covering geography, history, literature, grammar. All of the sudden, everyone and everything that I had known only through words or pictures, flat words and images on a page, miraculously came alive. On my second trip, I could see renewal as a half century of neglect was slowly being cleaned away. And I spent a lot of time with my cousin Gaida's sons and their families and friends - I'm actually a lot closer in age to them (I'm 6-10 years older) than to my cousins, Gaida, Vija, and Janis (they're 15-22 years older than me). Seeing progress not only for myself but also through their experiences, potential was no longer an illusion, but reality. While I looked forward to revisiting places like Mordanga, the family's mill in the country, or Vecriga, the old section of the capital Riga, I also hoped to meet yet unmet relatives, and to visit places yet unseen which are part of my family's history.
And I was ready to record it all - a camera with backup, lenses, and lots of film. (I think I shocked the guard at the airport when he X-rayed my carry-on!) I had a couple of "technical" difficulties here and there, but I got the pictures I came for. I was a bit unsteady at the start, though (no flash). Or maybe I just wasn't as composed as I thought. Here's my mom at JFK. So, we hoist the halyard and set course for another reunion.
A Different Angle
After my last trip, I vowed to never take another picture of deserted cobble streets winding through Vecriga, of "the spires" (Doma Church, St. Peter's, St. Jacob's), of cows in pastures - between my first two trips I took about 900 pictures! I knew I'd be visiting new people and places. But I also knew myself well enough to come prepared for the old sights, too - from new angles.
Above, the sun sets at JFK as we wait to pull away from the gate. The only things moving so far are a maintenance truck and a few butterflies inside. I'm wondering what this trip will bring.
Below, seven hours and six time zones later, dawn breaks over Finland as we near our Helsinki stop-over.