• 2007-09-19
  • Harry Gaffney, Riga
What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? [Response to "So much for 'European Sophistication,'" Letters, TBT #573, Sept. 13 - 19, 2007]

Hi Tricia (Anderson), welcome to Riga. Please read this:
It is concluded that the annualized social costs for one serious problem gambler amount to $9,469. It is also determined that there were 32,425 such persons in the state... About one in four people who go to the doctor are engaged in risky or problem drinking or drug use... Approximately 295,000 underage youths drink each year... There are 12,900 inmates in state prisons; 2,800 or 22% are sex offenders. All above is verifiable.
Riga? Well, no 's Wisconsin, actually.

Forgive me Tricia, I'm not firing arrows in defense of your hitherto perception of Riga, merely trying to establish a level playing field, i.e., Riga in relation to other cities.
When you arrived here wearing those rose tinted glasses, anything that didn't measure up to self-induced preconceptions would indeed be a disappointment.

But, as you managed to shelter yourself and your family from the realities of life in suburban Wisconsin, it's hardly surprising that you would regard the seamier side of Riga, or the real world, with dismay.
There are two sides to every city 's the sleazy and the cultural (although some would perceive a city's sleaze as being part of its culture). Usually visitors would have to go in search of the former, but not in Riga. It's a small city. However, a short walk from the area of premises housing females of unclear occupation will bring you to the stunning National Opera where even a four-year-old could not fail to be charmed by "The Nutcracker" at Christmas. Book early.

Soon you and your children will not cast a second glance at situations you presently find socially obtrusive.
If I had children of school age I would encourage them to embrace their surroundings and the people within with confidence, humor and humility.
Latvians are a shy people who will respond appropriately if treated equally. They are an elegant and proud people who have endured years of deprivation from the Soviets and are now trying to make up (too fast - perhaps) for lost time.

Be patient, expansive and keep your sense of humor. Try to do something for the country while you are here, any little thing 's it will bring you closer to the people whilst giving you a feeling of interrelation.
Best wishes, enjoy your stay.

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