We started the day with Janeks making us a traditional breakfast of Latvian sausage (actually more like American bologna, only smaller and lighter in color) on buttered bread with coffee. Elina Cernuka (Janeks' girlfriend) came along with us and Ina, and Janeks to visit the first orphanage. This was after Eric ran and had a cold shower, as half of the city of Cesis is without hot water. It gets light here at about 5 a.m. and stays light until about 10:30 p.m. because we are so far north!
Janeks introduced us to Ina his former Director of one of the orphanages he lived in. She now works for the town's cultural planning organization which plans and executes special cultural events for kids and teens. She was our chauffeur for the day and drove us to the town of Gaujienas. We were only 7 km from Estonia (another of the Baltic countries) and approximately 10 km from the Russian border.
Liga Cemjonova is the Director of the Gaujienas Children's Social Center (orphanage). She is also a teacher for the younger children in the orphanage school. We toured the building visiting bedrooms, common play rooms, kitchen, and dining areas as well as the bathrooms! She did not want us to see the classrooms for some reason. The building was old but pretty well maintained, considering very limited resources for maintenance. There was a residential boarding school next door for children who cannot live with their families but who are not yet considered orphans by the state.
Liga seemed very receptive to our plan to host a camp next summer for some of her children. There were 23 children ages 3-18, during the last school year living in the orphanage, 11 were still on site for the summer. The others had been placed with foster families for the summer. We met seven of the 11 children on site; Dagnis (11), Nikola (3), Elina (3), Viesturs (7), Sandra (16), Renate (6), and Juo (14). They loved the candy we brought eating piece after piece! We were very touched when several of the children took each of us by the hand and walked us outside to our car when leaving.
The four of us visited a very old Lutheran church building and went up to the very top of the bell tower and steeple through a winding narrow passage followed by very old wooden steps. Mark got a good shot of Eric's behind which he will not post. There was a fantastic view of Cesis from each side of the tower through tall narrow windows.
In the evening, Janeks, Elina, and the two of us met up with Janeks' sister Linda, who has been sick and may need some surgery to remove an abscess in her throat. It sounded like untreated strep throat to us. We walked through a park to eat at an outdoor restaurant and had pancakes (crepes) with ham and cheese or fruit and honey. Eric and Janeks did a little line dancing with the local ladies of the town. We even had three girls on horseback (in the middle of town!) come riding by while we ate. After dinner, we again walked through the park and saw the fountains illuminated by multicolored lights. This was a special treat considering that the city of Cesis has decided to turn off all streetlights at night to save money.
Janeks took us on a walking tour of old Cesis cobblestone streets where auto traffic is prohibited looking at some of the oldest buildings and architecture in town. While walking back to Janeks' apartment in the evening, we were stopped in our tracks by a procession of military recruits (like ROTC) marching out of the castle carrying torches. This really startled us in the dark cause there were no street lights!