For a west-european, life in Latvia is extremely cheap. In Latvia you pay with lats, 1 lat is worth a little over a British pound. One time we went to a restaurant to eat dinner, and including drinks it costed 4 lats (for two people), that's little over 6 euros. In Holland you'd pay around 35-40 euros or so. Zanete lives with an older lady who has a room in her apartment that she doesn't use. The room is quite small, there's just enough space for two closets, a two-person bed, a table and a chair. It's more like a place to sleep than to live.
At my birthday we didn't do a lot. We got up late, ate out and then wen to the graduation party of the computer science students who graduated that day (among which Zanete's best friend's brother Janis). After a while we left the party together with Zanete's friend (Maija) and went to play pool. At first they wouldn't accept my ID, but in the end we got in.
The next day (June 23rd) people in Latvia celebrate midsummer eve (or Jani, as they call it). To understand this you first have to know a little about the Latvian language and their customs. First of all: in Latvian all male nouns end with an 's'. All of them, including names. Quite soon I was called Zefs instead of Zef. My full name there would've been Zefs Hemels. Zef Hemel really doesn't make sense to Latvian people. Men there have names like Janis, Kristaps, Jozefs etc.
In Latvia they have name days. If your name, for example, is Jozefs your name day is at March 19th, if it's Zanete it's at March 23rd. At your name day people get you presents. June 23rd is the name day of Janis. That's why they call that day Jani (which I think is plural of Janis). Jani is special because as a present they get a crown made of oak leafs and flowers, called a vainags.
Zanete knows three Jani, so we had to get stuff to make three of these hats/crowns. Together with Annija, her youngest sister we went into the woods around their parent's place to find the stuff we needed:
It was quite hot and humid in the forest where we had to get the stuff and there were lots, lots, lots of mosquitos (I HATE mosquitos).
After getting the stuff, the leafs and flowers had to be cut:
They were then attached using rope:
And the end result:
Maija's brother Janis organized a place to celebrate Jani this year. The place and surroundings was amazing and really big. Plus the food and drinks were really good.
When you walked the bridge and walked a little further through the forest you ended up at a river with some boats:
There was also a sauna building (everything in Latvia is celebrated with a sauna):
(Zanete and her friend Maija.)
Celebrating Jani basically comes down to eating and drinking all night and not going to bed. And if you go to bed (like we tried) it's not unlikely that people enter the room, switch the light on, just to disturb you. The later in the night, the more annoying. The second day is for hangovers and just lying in the sun doing nothing all day.
To be continued tomorrow.