There is so much to do here that is of interest to me, and it is so beautiful. I want to come back, and soon, but one does not know when that would be. After my dear month in Mexico City in 2012 I said I would be back within the year. I have not been back since.
I had two arguments by e-mail, one about whether I should rush to apply for a Fulbright here (I shouldn’t, I should just sail steady and keep an eye on Baltic Fulbright offerings) and one about whether I should have a product placement blog on travel in hopes of getting vouchers for tours and cruises. I reacted to this with horror and then, more composed as I sat on a city bus in my new dress, feeling poised, realized what the fight-or-flight reaction had been:
1/ Traveling in the way that I do is the space in which I allow myself, and am allowed to be fully myself, to have utter integrity. I don’t want to give this up because then there would be nothing left of me at all.
2/ Traveling to me is deeply personal. I want to do the things I want to do. I don’t want to perform travel to please others, or be obliged to feign enjoyment. I’d honestly rather do sex work to support independent travel, than go on “free” cruises and tours and then blog about them. I would go on cruises and tours and write about them, even write positively about them, if I were also PAID to go on the excursion and for the writing, but that would be a completely different situation. And if I monetize my travel experiences in some way, benefit financially from selling my stories, I want to be the one who decides what stories I tell.
3/ It strikes me that there is something really perverse in commodifying yourself and your experience to promote a commodity, and masking this activity as a travel narrative. It also strikes me that the travel companies really win here–they get advertising they hardly pay for, and the person they underpaid considers it a gift.
In any case, some things from today are:
a/ The Great Cemetery of Riga, and other important cemeteries one could see; in the great cemetery I discovered the memorial stone for Kristian Jaak Peterson, founder of modern Estonian literature, compared to Pushkin and Goethe, who lived 21 years and mastered 20 languages;
b/ An earlier conversation in which I learned that the Latvian national epic was composed in the nineteenth century like Martin Fierro, and it involves a pre-Christian hero. He fought for the old gods against the catechists, and could kill bears with his bare hands.
c/ The conversation with the old man waiting for the bus. I will write about him in more detail later. I must remember to discuss the languages he speaks and why; his anti-Communism (and dislike of political news on television); his experiences in Siberia and the Red Army; his love for Estonia and fishing; the parades he had seen with both Hitler and Stalin on the very street where we were waiting for the bus.
d/ The open-air ethnographic museum, my thoughts on peasant life and the Wild West, my appreciation of these insufficiently respected people.