Latvian student visits Mark Twain's home town

  • 2000-01-13
  • By Elina Bieza
Hannibal is very nice town. For Americans it is small, but for me it
is big, because in Latvia, all towns and cities are much smaller. I
came to Hannibal with the thought that I'll live in a small town,
like my hometown. In Latvia, I live in Valka with 8,000 inhabitants.
Here there are more than two times that number - 18,000.

Now I am already getting used to living in such a big town. Here it
is very pretty, because the Mississippi River is right next to us.
The stories with Tom Sawyer and the historical places are also very

I was surprised by the people when I came here. I can see many
differences. In Latvia people have a lot of problems. They are sad
and so they don't smile. Here, everyone is smiling. I am learning to
do that also I don't think that Americans don't have problems but I
think they are just trying to hide them. They are trying to make life
easier. Americans are also very helpful and kind.

Next, I was surprised about cars. Americans don't walk! I used to
walk a lot, but now I do not It is rather sad. When the weather was
good, I would walk home from school. Going to school by car was new
for me. Every day about 200 cars were in the school parking lot. Wow!
In my Latvian school parking lot there are only two or three cars
each day. Now I have figured out why they don't walk. Everything is
situated much farther away. It takes at least 15 minutes to get to
the store, so they use cars. In Latvia things are closer. In Valka
the store is next to my apartment, so I don't need extra time to go

I live with the North family. They are very nice. At first it is hard
to live with people you don't know. But after only two months, I
really felt good there.

On Jan.8 I'll move to another family. They live three houses away, so
making contact with my first host family will be easy.

I love American houses! I used to live in an apartment. When I came
here I saw only houses. It is my dream to live in a house.

When I came her I was worried about my English, even though they said
that my English is good. I couldn't understand more than half of what
people said. It was hard for me; not because I didn't know English,
but because of how they spoke. They spoke differently. Now, my
English is good, but I still need work with my written English.

School here is much easier than in Latvia. I am studying in a
"block"schedule. Every other day I have the same classes, and every
day I have only four classes. All together there are only eight
classes. I used to have a minimum of 12 classes. Here we are studying
more practical subjects. In Latvia, I studied more theory. Americans
are very surprised that in Latvia we start to learn the first foreign
language in the third grade. For me it was English. I think it is
good, because younger children can learn more easily than older

I went to the United States with Juris Pupchenoks, also a Rotary
Club exchange student from Latvia. He lives in Jefferson City. We
arrived here in good shape, except we lost our luggage. That was
scary; but happily, after two days we got it back.