Monday, March 3, 2008

On the road to Riga, Latvia | Visiting Apeirons and LIKTA

Hellooooo Riga!! What an amazingly beautiful city this is. I'd heard many things about it, but the city really exceeded my expectations. I arrived in Riga late on Sunday after 8 hours of bus ride from Bialystok. It was very pleasant for the most part, with the small little detail that the bus driver was running the heat in the bus full power. The temperature inside the bus = 20 C, the temperature when got out of the bus = -5 C - I got a bad bad cold.

My field research in Latvia started on Monday, when I visited Apeirons - an NGO that works with disabled people in many areas, including e-skills training -. But before sharing my notes of all the things I've learned during these two days, I would like to give some brief Latvian context to understand a bit more my learnings so far.

Latvia is a very culturally rich country that gained its independence from Soviet Occupation in 1991. After a decade of painful economic reform the country enjoyed a period of growth that is starting to overheat the economy causing a sky-rocketing inflation, and a significant migration of the Latvian labor force to Ireland and the UK; very similar to the situation in Poland. Unemployment rates vary per region but on average Latvia has between 6% - 8.5% (have in mind that although the rates are artificially low since to some extent is driven by migration of the workforce).

People in Riga are super polite, nice, and the women are all very nicely dressed. My interpreter told me that women in Latvia dress up even to go to the super market. I haven't had the chance to walk much around the city beyond my walks to and from meetings so I haven't experienced much of that cultural immersion I described in a previous post. Something that is becoming really clear, from interviews specially, is that women are much more outgoing and talkative than men. I am a very talkative person myself and during the interviews it was hard for me to get men talking openly without me asking questions 1-5. Women are also more active in the e-skills projects, as trainers, as trainees, as NGO staff... will share later why this is the case

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