01 june Milan (ITALY)

Although only a few weeks have gone since my last trip to New Zealand, so many things have already happened... first of all my imminent departure to Afghanistan, yes, in less than a month I'll be in that far land of war...

I decided, despite the preparations for the mission, to go back to Latvia... It was something I had in mind and planned for a while. After the tragedy of Krists: I needed to do it!

Ten years have gone after that first time....

02 june Riga (LATVIA)

How many emotions!

It was so great to hug again my dear friend Martins.
Martins, my little friend, the one that 10 years ago I used to sneak in a nightclub because he was 16 years and he was forbidden, now he's a man, and married with a beautiful three year old daughter: Patricia.
He's a
man. For me: a brother!

We spent the whole afternoon chatting, endless streams of words trying to tell each other the last years of our lives!

In the evening I drove up along the Latvian streets till Jelgava, where I'm going to stay, the Audi that the kind Maris has given to me.

Sitting astride the window I note my first thoughts, a bit confused...

The cat Pucsi walks on my diary and I think about the old Ripsi... A such old dog now deaf but still alive... Immortal ...

Ten years ago ... I grow up but I live ...

I feel that this mission, at least the idea of it, have already changed me.

What is going to happen there? And above all on my way back...

The important thing is coming back, as the Americans say: "Alive and in One Piece"

03 june Jelgava (LATVIA)

This morning while we were shopping at the "Rimi", and strolled around the streets of Jelgava, I thought about how I feel tied to this Country. Maybe because I feel closer to me after my Italy, thanks to Krists and Martins.

In the evening dinner at Anda and Leo's. In "Gustava iela" everything has changed.

Everything is renovated. There is no longer that little house but three delicious and very decent apartments, well kept and modern.

Leo proudly showed me many photos of my friend Krists, when he was in the United States during the flight school, flying in Estonia and I was moved when he quietly closed in my hand a keychain with a photo of his son on board a military aircraft and whispered: "This is for you!" I'll take it with me to Afghanistan. It will protect me.

I met Linda, Martins' wife, very nice and polite and the small Patricia, so pretty!

Typical Latvian dinner in memory of old times. Potatoes, yogurt (actually a cream very similar), salad and meat.

04 june Riga (LATVIA)

Evening in the music hall of a hotel in Riga to hear a concert by DJ Ella, Maris' girlfriend, which is an emerging pop singer and very famous here in Latvia. Elina, her real name, although only 22 years seems very strong and smart.


05 june Riga (LATVIA)

Martins informs me that during the morning there would have been a meeting at the Riga's cemetery by former Krists' colleagues. I decide to join them. Along the way I buy a bunch of chrysanthemums and according to Latvian tradition I purchase them in equal numbers.
We enter the cemetery and I immediately notice that is located right next to the one I visited five years ago when I came here with the academy. That time I was here with a completely different mood.
I proceed.

A long and gloomy avenue clay was still wet from the rain yesterday, a large statue of an old Latvian writer stands at the end of the trail. We turn left and many gravestones emerge from the period of World War II with pictures of old soldiers in uniform and mustache full of medals, everything is written in Cyrillic ... Martins says they are the famous Red Army soldiers. We go ahead and in the distance, just next to the perimeter fence, I see a mound of fresh earth with lots of white flowers on it ... Leo and Martins stop. Here is my friend.
Leo, with shining eyes, crouches and caresses a piece of land ...
I stand apart... Then I try to find a bit of courage and approach ... I place my flowers ... and I get a further... Three thousand thoughts crowd my mind ... I can't help thinking about the things Martins told me...

The sky is grey ... a strong wind is blowing and noisily move all the shrubs and trees ...
A long freight train carrying huge tanks of fuel with Cyrillic letters runs quickly ... It's endless... I imagined my friend lying, with his sly smile, watching these long Russian convoys ...
Suddenly at first one, then another group of people begin to move towards us, in religious silence, shaking hands with Leo, then Martins, then me. Martins whispers me that those were his brother's fellows.
A bit awkward, almost as if theyare following a ceremonial, they go on, each leaving a flower on the bare ground.
They stop a bit to pray and then refer to one side, take a a bottle of vodka from a bag, then a fruit juice and a packet of biscuits and all together we toast remembering the memory of Krists, while Martins reads me a sentence written on the grave of a Russian man right there in front of us: "A person dies only when you forget him. "

Before leaving, Martins, with a flat rakes all the earth around the grave and tells me that the tradition wants it in that way so the spirit does not come out and take away other people ...

On the way back from the cemetery we stop at the hospital for the political votations. I can't believe it, here, they vote not only in the schools but also in the hospitals!
- "Martins, are you sure you voted the right one? "
- "Sure Mark, I voted for me!"

Recalling the old days we go to the center by tram. I can not see the funny trooley bus anymore, there are no more the sweet old ladies that sell the bus tickets but a modern bus: British style!

Compared to last time that I was here the old town has not changed much.
Many buildings have been restored, some decadent thrown down, the nightclubs where I spent all my nights are either closed or changed their name ...
But the legendary McDonald in front of Laima Clock is always there and always busy.

Martins and I have walked, strolled around all the streets, lanes and alleys of the old town recalling the adventures of the four previous episodes!

We end the evening at my friend's house where Rita, Nick and Inguna join us; eating something and playing different table games ...



06 june Jelgava (LATVIA)

This morning I took Rita as well to vote. She did it in a school, but the funny thing was noting that here there is not the discipline or secrecy that we are used to see in our Country... people were filling out their schedes while in line, there was even who helped or explains them how to fill it and the funny thing is that the explanations were done directly on the vote board...

Seen two shy sun rays we decide to visit the city that is hosting me: Jelgava.

The railway station, the university, the St. Mary church (Catholic) and an orthodox one similar to St Basil...
I ventured inside while they were celebrating a funeral. They were all Russians, I was very impressed about the Orthodox rite, those songs, those fumes, these perfumes ...

"How strange life is" I wondered... inside people were weeping an oldman dead and just outside other were celebrating the union of two young newlyweds ...









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