Riga Culture Shock

I am immersed in a whirlwind of the big city. After a week in tranquil Estonia, the capitol of Latvia feels huge and on permanent fast forward. Trams clanging everywhere. The little green striding walk man shrieking at me to go. People going all directions at once. Call it culture shock. I’m knocked off my axis and trying to climb back on. The medical adventure didn’t help matters. So today’s mantra was to pace myself. No need to jump on a tourist rat race.

It’s Sunday, so the afternoon was alive with people. There are parks aplenty, sedate leafy affairs of lush, hyper sized hostas and feathering astilbes, the lawns a bed of lounging families and cuddling couples watched over by a mournful Austrian count unable to break out of his stone cage to join the merry makers under his domain. In one park, a fanciful wonderland of play structures made of rough-hewn wood crawled with children.

I joined the Sunday morning crowd of head-scarved old women at the huge labyrinth of the Central Market, a warren of vegetable, fruit, flower, cheese, meat, and miscellany that spill out of these huge former Zeppelin hangars. I sampled spices and bought a picnic feast for cheap.

The old town center of Riga is studded with churches. Around every corner I stumbled over one, sometimes two side by side. Inside the main cathedral, the organist filled the space with apocalyptic tones, as if the end times were drawing near. Or maybe it was just Beethoven. I lounged in a cafe, meandered cobblestoned streets of stately Baroque and whimsical Art Nouveau. And breath by breath the city shrinks into something manageable. Human scaled.

My fibromyalgia has been quiet since Hiiumaa’s bike adventure, when the only bike my host had for my use was a Soviet era one-speed. Biking 80km on a one-speed, well, you’re not getting anywhere fast. And your legs strain and scream. Maybe not the best plan for me. But now that’s a distant memory as I focus on my staircase episode wounds. I suddenly discover I have a hypochondriac streak. Is my wound infected? What’s that color mean? Is that the start of a scab or an infection? Why does my leg ache? Quick, a doctor tell me everything is okay fast!

Really, I should just chill, take it slow, and follow my instructions for keeping it clean. But I’m in another country where I don’t speak the language and it’s amazing how that heightens the anxiety of something otherwise minor. Because if I do have a problem, how will I communicate what’s wrong?

I pantomimed antibacterial gel for putting underneath a bandage to the pharmacist at the aptieka this morning. If I can do that, I communicate anything. Or so I tell myself as I check my bandage. One. More. Time.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
This entry was posted in Baltic States (Estonia Latvia Lithuania), travel with fibromyalgia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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