My cheesy Christmas reflections on this beautiful mess

‘Cheesy’ in the urban dictionary means trying too hard. That which is unsubtle or inauthentic in its way of trying to elicit a certain response from a viewer, listener, reader, audience. Cliches are often cheesy because they are an obvious way of making a point.

What obvious point I want to make? That this world is a mess but it is a beautiful mess. We can despair over our stupidity, ignorance, gullibility, evil intentions, lies, violence, greed and even Christmas  festivities are not cheerful or glitzy enough to silence these thoughts or to put a nice shiny wrapping over it. The magnitude of struggles and suffering around the world is simply too big to be covered by “Happy Holiday’s” or “Season’s Greetings” or even “Our thoughts and prayers”.

Yes, we are a mess but we are also very special. This world is beautiful inside and out and Christmas is a  festival when we try to make it even more beautiful inside and out. And we get out the shiny wrapping for the visual effect. In the northern part of the world it is the darkest time of the year but we all know that it makes for the most exquisite light displays. We need darkness to appreciate the light; we need dark background to enjoy the illumination. Just like we need black skies to see the stars. Just like women wear a black dress to show off the whitest pearls or sparkly jewelry. Cliche but so true and we don’t mind. We are created for beauty.

What would be a Christmas tree in the summer?! It would look so fake and ‘inauthentic’ when all the other trees are adorned with their natural beauty – leaves, flowers. When everything is green, the evergreens do not look so green anymore. But at Christmas even a shabby tree can look festive and proud when decorated.

This Christmas Eve I took my grandmother to a traditional service at a nearby Lutheran church. I grew up near this church and was even baptized there but in my childhood memories it stood as big, old, cold and dark. I was sitting in the wooden pew this Sunday and new memories were created. The church was still big and old but it was not cold and it was not dark. It was filled with people (as expected on Christmas Eve) and our bodies helped to heat the place. It was filled with candles and lights and it made the atmosphere simply enchanting. Not to mention the focus of the evening – the Light of the world.

When we were walking toward the church before the evening service, my grandmother commented on the illuminated church tower which looked so majestic and inviting against the night skies. Her eyesight is starting to fail but it amazes me what details she catches. Anything that speaks of beauty and creativity. She always asks about the lights in the distance, she notices decorations in the shop windows and we stopped by a shop which had a disco ball. The ball was turning and it illuminated the sidewalk with what looked like snowflakes falling and twirling. My grandmother was simply mesmerized and I tried to remember the last time I enjoyed a disco ball so much.

Then we were both mesmerized in the church. I was probably making many of the older folks mad by taking sneak selfies with grandmother and looking around so much. Looking at the chandeliers, at the artful wood carvings, at the stained glass windows, at the altar painting and at the ceiling beams so high. I felt like a child again who is getting the scornful looks: “Has nobody taught you how to behave in a church?”

Well, this is exactly what I have learned about proper behavior in the church. Be like children who come with all their questions, their worries, fears, anxieties, hopes, expectations, dreams and longing for love and attention from God and people. Usually children call things for what they are. And Christmas celebrations are much more fun with children because children are never cheesy.




What is it to be?

99 years… old or young? There is a popular Latvian song about Latvia being too big to hug or cover with your blanket as you would for a loved one but it is too small to go alone in the big wide world. Similar metaphor can be used for these 99 years we celebrated yesterday (November 18, 1918 was the proclamation day for independent state of Latvia). It is not a very long time in history or for a country and we still have the generation that was born around the time of first independence (my grandmother is only 5 years younger than our country).

The celebrations have been many, the speeches were long, the anthem has been sung countless times, the flags were everywhere and the fireworks great as ususal. And for the first time I put a tiny flag on my coat. I have often had reservations about this little gesture because I am against the arrogant kind of nationalism and I don’t support the idea that patriotism or the love for your country and your people is best expressed through symbols like flag, anthem, costumes, etc. I don’t want to look at people and think, “Look, he or she is wearing it. So, we are on the same team.”

I want to see how people think, talk, act and live every day and then hopefully we are on the same team. For the same reason, as a Christian,  I have chosen not wear a cross around my neck even though I don’t mind when other people wear it. I hope to be identified as a follower of Jesus not for the symbols and crosses and doctrines, but for trying to walk the talk which is always counter intuitive and deeply challenging to my ways.

The idea of Latvia and the real Latvia does not always match and sometimes it contradicts itself. And while our country is preparing to celebrate the big 100 next year, we are at some kind of crossroads again. There are many things happening locally and globally and some trends are simply dangerous. Again and again the big nations want to settle their differences and satisfy their interests at the expense of small ones. Again and again the powerful and wealthy are getting more power and wealth. Again and again the ordinary people fall for empty populist promises and go in circles.  Again we ‘fortify’ our ethnic or national or religious identities to exclude those whom we don’t understand, like or are afraid of and so easily move away from universal human values and actually our religious ones (which is the greatest tragedy).

Latvia is watching and Latvia is learning (I hope we are!!!). More than ever we need to reflect deeply but act fast. On one hand we are still deciding on the future story since we had a long and painful interruption that lasted 50 years and changed us profoundly. And we cannot turn back in time and find the perfect moment or the magic key because it simply does not exist. On the other hand we can be very grateful and proud of what we have achieved and how blessed we are with what we have. It is not because we are better or deserve more than people in Yemen or Somalia or Myanmar or Venezuela or North Korea. There are many reasons why we have what we have and some of them we had no control over but we should not take anything for granted.

Yesterday I was watching on TV the ecumenical church service which takes place every Independence Day.  There was obviously an older crowd and at first I thought, “why are there so many old people? is it because we, the younger ones, did not want to get up early on Saturday morning? or we find these kind of services too formal and boring?” But then I saw the tears when one old man was singing the song “Bless this land, Father” and this prayer suddenly hit me. The older generation knows the difference. They know what it is like to “live on your knees” and to be able “stand up” again and help others to stand up. They know what it is like to hide your national flag or other symbols in the attic or hide the Bible and other books which are simply too dangerous for totalitarian systems.

Yes, Latvia is a very small place in the big wide world and many things we cannot control ourselves but we do have control of what kind of story we would like.  What is it to be? I want it to be a story that will never make me ashamed to put the tiny flag on my coat.


99 gadi… veca vai jauna? Gluži kā U. Stabulnieka/M. Zālītes dziesmā, kas mums tik tuva, mīļa un saprotama. Latvija ir par lielu, lai paņemtu klēpī un apmīļotu, bet par mazu, lai laistu vienu pasaules plašajos ceļos. Tāpat Latvija ir par vecu, lai teiktu, ka tā vēl neko nezin, nav piedzīvojusi, sasniegusi, sapratusi un vēl jāpadzīvo, lai kļūtu gudrāka un labāka. Bet par jaunu, lai teiktu, kā tā ir savu ideju piepildījusi. 99 gadi nav nekas cilvēces vēsturē, arī valsts pastāvēšanā. Mēs esam salīdzinoši ‘jauna’ valsts (ja atskaita tos 50 padomju gadus, tad vispār), un mūsu vidū vēl ir ap Latvijas valsts izveidošanas laiku dzimušie. Arī mana vecmamma ir tikai 5 gadus jaunāka par Latvijas valsti.

Svinības jau iet uz beigām, runas norunātas (gan vērtīgās, gan tukšās), himna nodziedāta pie katras izdevības, karogi visapkārt, un ugunis izšautas gaisā. Un šogad es pirmoreiz piespraudu mazo lentīti pie mēteļa. Mani vienmēr kaut kas bremzēja, jo tik ļoti nepatīk augstprātīgs nacionālisms (tāds, kurš cenšas sevi pacelt augstāk par citiem), un man nav pieņemama ideja, ka savu patriotismu, tātad mīlestību uz dzimteni un tās cilvēkiem, vislabāk izrādīt ar simboliem, karogiem, himnām, tautas tērpiem, utt. Es negribu piederēt kaut kādam “mēs – latvieši” klubam, kur viens otru atpazīst pēc ārējām piederības zīmēm… re, savējais no mūsu komandas!

Svarīgi, kā cilvēki domā, runā, rīkojas un dzīvo katru dienu, un tad es spriedīšu, vai esam vienā komandā. Gluži tāpat man kā kristietei nav gribējies kārt krustiņu kaklā, kaut gan nav pretenziju, ka citi to valkā. Dažiem tie krustiņi izskatās tik stilīgi, ka man arī uzreiz sagribas. Bet vissvarīgāk, vai mana dzīve vismaz mazliet atbilst tam, kā iedomājos Jēzus sekotājus. Mūs neatšķirs pēc krustiņiem, Bībelēm, zivtiņām uz auto, ticības mācības skolās, bet ievēros, ja cilvēks ņem nopietni iešanu pret ‘straumi’ un varas, vardarbības un mantkārības sistēmām.

Mana ideja par Latviju bieži neatbilst reālajai Latvijai (protams, ka ideālas valsts vispār nav), un šķiet, ne man vienīgajai ir sajūta, ka, gatavojoties simtgadei, mēs gan svinam svētkus, gan stāvam krustcelēs. Ko tālāk?  Šobrīd pasaulē tik daudz lokālu un globālu pārmaiņu. Turklāt tas notiek strauji, un tāda maza valsts kā Latvija maz spēj ietekmēt tendences vai risināt globālās krīzes, piemēram, vides piesārņotību un alkatīgo dzīšanos pēc dabas resursiem. Atkal un atkal lielās un spēcīgās valstis risina savas domstarpības un rūpējas par savām interesēm uz mazo valstu rēķina. Atkal un atkal varenie un bagātie sagrābj vēl vairāk varas un bagātības. Atkal un atkal ‘vienkāršie’ ļaudis balso par balamutēm populistiem un tukšiem solījumiem. Atkal mēs veidojam savus etniskos, nacionālos un reliģiskos cietokšņus, lai izslēgtu tos, kuri mums nepatīk vai no kuriem mums bail, un pārsteidzoši viegli atsakāmies no vispārpieņemtajām cilvēciskajām vērtībām un arī savām reliģiskajām vērtībām (kas ir pats traģiskākais).

Latvija vēro, un Latvija mācās (es ceru!!!). Cik ļoti mums nepieciešams pārdomāt dziļi, bet rīkoties ātri! Mēs nevaram atgriezties kaut kādā brīnīšķīgā pagātnē un atrast to īsto  laimes atslēdziņu, jo tāda neeksistē. Mēs varam būt pateicīgi un lepni par saviem sasniegumiem un svētībām, ko esam saņēmuši. Taču nedomāt, ka paši sevī esam labāki par tautām Jemenā, Somālijā, Mjanmā, Irākā, Venecuēlā vai Ziemeļkorejā, un ka mums tas viss vienkārši pienākas. Paši zinām garo stāstu, kāpēc mums tagad ir laba, mierīga, pārtikusi un droša dzīve, kaut daudzas lietas bijušas ārpus mūsu kontroles. Tas nav nekas pašsaprotams.

Svētku dienā es ieslēdzu TV, un redzēju pašas beigas ekumēniskajam dievkalpojumam Doma baznīcā. Pirmais, kas iekrita acīs, bija sirmās galvas, un vēl visi bija tik uzkrītoši nopietni. Mēs, latvieši, tiešām no malas izskatāmies drūmi, un nezinātājs varētu padomāt, ka tur bija sēru dievkalpojums. Bet ne par to šoreiz. Es sev jautāju, kāpēc uz tādiem oficiāliem pasākumiem iet veci cilvēki un tik maz jaunieši. Man pašai negribas celties brīvdienās tik agri, un varbūt tas viss liekas tik formāli un garlaicīgi. Bet tad ievēroju sirmo ļaužu sejas un asaras acīs, dziedot dziesmu “Svētī, Kungs, šo mūsu zemi”, un man bija kārtējais belziens pa pieri.

Viņi taču zin, kas mūsu Latvija nav pašsaprotama! Viņi zin, ko nozīmē dzīvot “nospiestam uz ceļiem” un atkal piecelties un palīdzēt piecelties citiem. Viņi zin, ko nozīmē slēpt šo karogu un totalitārai sistēmai bīstamās grāmatas kā Bībeli, u.c.,  mājas bēniņos vai zem grīdas.

Jā, Latvija ir maza, un globālā līmenī mums maza teikšana, bet savu stāstu gan veidojam paši. Kāds tas būs turpmāk? Es vēlos, lai tas ir tāds, kas man nekad neliks kaunēties par mazo karodziņu pie mēteļa.


Minnesota is a long way from Burma or Latvia

This is a photo from St Paul, Minnesota. Did you know that June 20 is a World Refugee Day? St Paul has become home to thousands of refugees. One of the ethnic groups settled in MN are Karen people from Burma (Myanmar). There are estimated 10,000 Karen in Minnesota and St. Paul currently has the largest and fastest-growing Karen populations in the U.S. Other communities in Minnesota with a large Karen population include Worthington, Willmar, Austin, Albert Lea and Faribault.

I never imagined that my life would be connected to this story that links places so distant and different from each other. When I see women or men with a traditional Karen shoulder bag walking down the street in Roseville or West St Paul, I think to myself “This is a long way from the villages and farms and jungle trails in mountains of Karen State in Burma.” It is also a long way from the refugee camps on Thailand – Burma border.

I have one of those bags and I love to see the smile on people’s faces when they ask me, “Where did you get this? What?! You have been to Mae La refugee camp? When? Why?” I explain about our former work in the migrant schools, about teaching English and our many many friendships. I love to talk about the beautiful Karen dances and songs and crafts. And the food but not the fish paste! Anything but the fish paste.

We went to this year’s World Refugee Day celebration in St Paul. It was a treat to see traditional Karen dances and hear the songs and also listen to the stories. These young people were very grateful for the opportunities and freedom they have in their new home country and also were proud to introduce others to their beautiful, rich culture and history.

It have mixed feelings as there is always a sense of homesickness. It makes me think of all the Latvians and other Europeans who came to Minnesota as refugees after World War II. I have heard stories from people who had Latvian neighbors or friends and husbands. Stories about all the good Latvia food, all the Latvian dances and songs and, of course, all the partying. (Unfortunately Latvians were known for the large amounts of alcohol they could consume)

One of the guys I know is named John. He is very much an Irish American but his best friend while growing up in North Minneapolis was a Latvian guy. And John got the special treatment from Latvian community because of his name. “Jānis” is the Latvian version of John and it used to be one of the most popular names in Latvia. (You walk in a room and say “Jānis” and see how many guys will turn their head!)

Making a new home in a far away land is not easy, but it is a part of our human story through the ages. Wars happen. Lives get destroyed. We get up-rooted and then we go and put our roots in a new place. It makes a big difference if the new place is welcoming and open. I am very grateful to know so many people in Minnesota who have opened their hearts and lives to give shelter and refugee to people who have had to flee their beloved countries and homes and farms and families. Thank you, Minnesota!


Karen traditional dances in Mae Sot, Thailand (photo from personal archive)



Still learning to be free and independent

How many ‘Independence Days’ do you celebrate? Or do you even have one? Latvia has two! The first is November 18 when we celebrate the original proclamation of Independence of 1918. The second is May 4 when we celebrate the proclamation of Restoration of Independence in 1990.

Independent from what?! First time from Russian Empire. Second time from the USSR (United Socialist Soviet Republics). Even though November 18 is the most significant national holiday, there are not many people left who could remember the original events. Even my grandmother who is 92 years old, was born a few years later.

But majority Latvians remember May 4, 1990. While spending last two weeks in the US, I have enjoyed watching a CNN special called “The Eighties”. What a cool decade! I used to think of ’80s as something I would rather forget. Like my big permed hair, my ugly glasses, the funny clothes and lots of pretentious music. I used to think my ‘real life’ began in the ’90s with much better fashion and great alternative bands. I was proud to belong to Generation X and listen to grunge. Still love Eddie Vedder from “Pearl Jam”

Now I look back and I realize what a privilege I have had. Events like these only happen once. The demonstrations, the speeches, the songs, the popular movement… the emotion and power and passion and joy. You could ask most Latvians, “where were you on May 4, 1990?” and get lots of great stories.

Today I am not thinking about 26 years ago, though. I am thinking about ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. Yes, we regained national freedom but the freedom of mind, heart, soul and will is not a one day event. We are still learning to be free… I am still learning to be free. We relearn the forgotten truths, we unlearn the lies, we learn the unfamiliar paths.

We are still relearning “democracy” and “civil society”. We are still unlearning “duplicity” and “not taking responsibility”. We are still learning “initiative” and “solidarity”.

Maybe it is a blessing in disguise to be a small nation that still feels so young. I don’t mean demographically:( We have enjoyed a steep learning-curve and at the same time have some excuses for our failures. There is still so much we either don’t know or don’t practice. And we don’t have ‘democracy fatigue’ because we have not had ‘too much’ of it yet.

Freedom is not easy. In many ways it is easier to be told what to think and what to do. It is easier to live in a power pyramid where you can worry only about yourself and your own interests. It is easier to be an object versus a subject.

I choose to live as a subject with God who is the origin of all our freedoms, including the freedom of will and thought and expression. To me, it is a life worth living but never easy…


Simple Minds were singing “Don’t you forget about me… ” Who can forget the ’80s?


Esmu tā pieradusi, ka Latvijā svinam ‘neatkarību’ gan 18. novembrī, gan 4. maijā, ka vienmēr mazliet apjūku, ja esmu valstī, kur tādu svinību nav vispār. Piemēram, Taizemē vai Krievijā. Tad sāku domāt, cik dažādi veidojas mūsu nacionālās un valstiskās identitātes.

Pēdējā laikā daudz dažādu apaļu gadaskaitļu. 25 gadi kopš… 30 gadi kopš… un daudz visādu atmiņu. Visu laiku ir ko atcerēties. Protams, atceros arī 1990. gada 4. maiju. Gan cilvēku pūli Daugavmalā, gan radio klausīšanos, gan Augstākās Padomes balsu skaitīšanu un pēc tam lielās gaviles un neaprakstāmo prieku. Kad pat vēsie latvieši krīt viens otram ap kaklu.

Pēdējās divas nedēļas ciemojos ASV un skatos interesantu CNN raidījumu sēriju par 80’tajiem gadiem. Tā tiešām bija īpaša desmitgade! Agrāk centos pēc iespējas ātrāk aizmirst to laiku, jo uzreiz iedomājos savu lielo frizūru ( lokainos matos vēl likt ilgviļņus!), jocīgo modi un cukuraino mūziku. Uzskatīju, ka mana ‘īstā dzīve’ sākās 90’to gadu sākumā, kad radās man vismīļākais ģērbšanās stils un vislabākās alternatīvā roka grupas ar sava veida izaicinošu vēstījumu. ASV mūsu paaudzi nosauca par ‘Paaudzi X’, kura bija nezināma, tolaik vēl neizprasta. Joprojām fanoju par Ediju Vederu no “Pearl Jam”…

Šodien domāju par ‘brīvību’ un ‘neatkarību’. Jā, mēs atguvām valsts neatkarību, bet neatkarīgu gribu, prātu, sirdi un dvēseli nevar iegūt vienā dienā. Mēs joprojām mācāmies būt brīvi… es joprojām mācos būt brīva. Mums bija jāmācās no jauna kādas aizmirstas patiesības, bija jāmācās nemelot un jamācās iemīt jaunus ceļus.

Mēs joprojām atjaunojam “demokrātisku garu” un “pilsonisku sabiedrību”. Mēs joprojām attīrāmies no “divkosības” un “atbildības novelšanas”. Mēs joprojām mācāmies “ķerties pie lietas” un “nest nastas kopā”. Ne tikai lokāli, bet arī globāli.

Varbūt tā ir mūsu apslēptā svētība – būt jaunai valstij (tikai ne demogrāfiskajā ziņā). Esam tik strauji auguši, un vēl varam attaisnoties par daudzām kļūdām, sakot, ka neesam ‘pieredzējuši’. Vēl daudz ko apgūstam, un daudz ko darām tikai vārdos, ne darbos. Un vēl mūs nav piemeklējis “nogurums no demokrātijas”, jo neesam to pietiekami baudījuši.

Būr brīvam nav viegli. Kādā ziņā ir pat vieglāk dzīvot tai varas piramīdā, kur tu ne par ko neatbildi un vari rūpēties tikai par sevi un savējiem. Kur vari būt tas, ar kuru kaut kas notiek, nevis tas, kurš pats rada šos notikumus.

Es izvēlos radīt kopā ar Dievu, kurš ir visu mūsu brīvību avots. Ieskaitot gribas, domu un runas brīvību. Tā ir vērts dzīvot, bet nav viegli…



Sons and daughters… kings and queens of love

It was a hot and humid evening in Kuala Lumpur. Our friend Darren is a good driver and I am glad because the traffic here gets bad. I don’t mind sitting in a passenger seat though when it gives more time for good conversations. And in Malaysia there is lots to talk about. People, the city, music, art, faith, history, current affairs… Darren is a good source for all these topics.

We were driving to a show featuring local bands. Seriously, there is so much musical talent in Malaysia! And the venue was really cool. “Merdekarya” is a combination of words for ‘independence’ and ‘art’. It prides itself for being a place of free expression and creativity and providing platform and support for local poetry, music and storytelling…

One advertisement that stuck in my head from years of watching CNN International news is “Malaysia Truly Asia”. It emphasized the natural beauty and the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity and it had a very catchy tune. I guess this ad worked… at least for me. No doubt it is one of the most diverse places and also this tropical land is one of 17 Megadiverse countries on earth, estimated to have 20% of the world’s animal species.  Most of the country is covered by tropical rain forests.

Malay, Chinese, Indigenous, Indian. I am glad that for my friends, English is a common language. Otherwise I would be lost. Still, I do get lost when they switch to Manglish, a mix of English, Malay, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil… wow , they can talk fast! It is like listening on “fast forward”.

Our friend Darren used to teach English to foreign students in Kuala Lumpur. It gave him another deeper insight into cross-cultural living. Especially interesting for me were his observations about young people from the former Soviet republics like Russia, Tajikistan, etc. Most come from wealthy families and many are not as interested in their studies as they are interested in having a good time. Also, Darren had become aware of different prejudices and conflicts between these groups. For example, the prejudice toward people from Central Asian countries. For those of us who grew up in the USSR, all the derogatory terms are so familiar. And here they made it all the way to Malaysia.

I am aware that even in such a beautiful country like Malaysia not everything is ‘paradise’ and the rich cultural social tapestry has its reverse side. The advertisement of Malaysia Truly Asia leaves out these kind of things. There is a history of tensions and from time to time it comes to violence, aimed at ethnic or religious communities. I am no expert on Malaysian history or all the current causes for these fractures, but I do know that there are fault-lines in all our societies.

At the show I was listening to an amazing young band from the south of Malaysia, accordingly named “South and The Lowlands”. Music is a very powerful tool in peace building and reconciliation.  One of their songs “Sculptures” (lyrics by Daniel T.) has a beautiful message and a story to tell that is very relevant to all our lives…

“Many faces and places… Many hopes and dreams shattered                                                              Many hurts and bruises… Many roads and paths taken

Different colours, covered by the same blood… Different shades, but after one heart

Sons and daughters… Kings and queens of love                                                                                      More than sculptures… Crafted by God

Shine bright tonight… One heart… One soul… One mind ”

Malaysia has words, songs and stories to tell the world. I am blessed by friends like Darren and Daniel  and others who are passionate about challenging our prejudices. They use their talents while inspired by faith in God who rains Love, Truth and Forgiveness on everyone – good and bad.


A must-visit venue in Kuala Lumpur


Kualalumpūrā ir karsts un sutīgs vakars. Mūsu draugs Darens ir labs šoferis, un es to novērtēju, jo te mēdz būt pamatīgi satiksmes sastrēgumi. Turklāt man nav iebildumu būt pasažierim, ja ir daudz laika labām sarunām. Malaizijā ir ko pārrunāt – cilvēki, pilsēta, mūzika, māksla, reliģija, vēsture, jaunākie notikumi… Darens labprāt runā par visām šīm tēmām.

Mēs braucam uz koncertu, kur muzicēs vietējās jaunās grupas. Goda vārds, te ir tik daudz labas mūzikas! Un pats mūzikas klubs ir superīgs. “Merdekarya” ir vārdu salikums, kas malaju valodā nozīmē ‘neatkarība’ un ‘māksla’. Ar to arī šis klubs lepojas, ka veicina un atbalsta neatkarīgo mākslu un vietējos dzejniekus, mūziķus un rakstniekus.

Tā kā daudzus gadus skatos CNN starptautiskās ziņas, tad galvā iesēdies viens reklāmas rullītis. “Malaizija Patiesa Āzija”. Tur tika reklamēts dabas skaistums, un lielā kultūras, etnisko grupu un rasu dažādība. Turklāt šai reklāmai bija ļoti lipīga melodija. Tātad šī kampaņa nostrādāja. Vismaz manā gadījumā. Nav šaubu, ka te ir šī liela dažādība. Turklāt Malaizija ir viena no 17 valstīm pasaulē, kuras tiek uzskatītas par supervalstīm dabas daudzveidības jomā. Te ir apmēram 20% no pasaules dzīvnieku sugām. Lielāko daļu valsts sedz tropu meži.

Malaji, ķīnieši, aborigēni, indieši… Es priecājos, ka mūsu draugi savā starpā sarunājas angļu valodā, savādāk es apjuktu. Es jau tā apjūku vai arī atslēdzos no sarunas, kad viņi pāriet uz vietējo angļu sarunvalodu (Manglish), kur sajaucas angļu, malaju, mandarīnu, tamilu, hokienu un citas valodas. Turklāt viņi runā tādā ātrumā! Liekas, ka kāds būtu ieslēdzis pogu “paātrināt”.

Mūsu draugs Darens agrāk mācīja angļu valodu ārvalstu studentiem, kuri mācās Kualalumpūrā. Viņš daudz ko uzzināja un iepazina dažādas kultūras. Konkrēti mani interesēja stāsti par studentiem no bijušajām PSRS valstīm, piemēram, Krievijas, Tadžikistānas un citām. Lielākā daļa ir bagātu ģimeņu atvases, kuriem gribas ne tik daudz studēt, kā labi pavadīt laiku. Zīmīgi, ka Darens ātri uzķēra dažādos aizspriedumus šo studentu starpā. Piemēram, attieksmi pret tautībām no Centrālās Āzijas. Mums, uzaugušajiem PSRS, šīs iesaukas un citi apzīmējumi ir labi pazīstami, bet tagad tie atceļojuši līdz Malaizijai. Darens man ļoti precīzi izskaidroja, kas ir ‘čurkas’.

Taču es zinu, ka arī skaistajā Malaizijā nav “paradīze”, un krāsainajam sabiedrības tepiķim ir otra neglītā puse. Protams, ka reklāmas rullītis to nerādīs. Arī šeit ir vēsture ar konfliktiem starp rasēm un tautībām un dažādas reliģiskas neiecietības izpausmes, kas reizēm pārvēršas vardarbībā. Skaidrs, ka šīs plaisas ir visur pasaulē.

Koncertā klausījos vienu jaunu un ļoti talantīgu rokgrupu no Malaizijas dienvidiem, kuru attiecīgi sauc “Dienvidi un zemienes” (South and The Lowlands). Mūzika vienmēr ir bijis spēcīgs intruments, ko izmantot miera celšanai. Viena no grupas dziesmām “Skulptūras” pildīja tieši šādu uzdevumu caur savu skaisto vēstījumu…

“Daudzas sejas un vietas… Daudzas cerības un sapņi

Daudzas sāpes un brūces… Daudzi ceļi un gaitas

Daudzas krāsas, ko apklāj vienas asinis… Daudzi toņi, bet viena sirds

Dēli un meitas… Mīlestības valdnieki un valdnieces

Vairāk kā skulptūras… Dieva radītas

Lai deg spoži… Viena sirds… Viena dvēsele… Viens nodoms”

Malaizija dod vārdus, dziesmas un stāstus visai pasaulei. Paldies Dievam par tādiem draugiem kā Darens and Daniēls un citi, kuri cīnās ar mūsu aizspriedumiem. Viņu instruments ir mūzika un māksla, un viņu motivācija ir ticība Dievam, kurš izlej savu Mīlestību, Patiesību un Žēlastību pār mums visiem – labiem un sliktiem.






Don’t talk in maybe’s… Sing it like it should be

There is this one guy I would like to meet. He is very tall, very skinny, very bald and very cool. Well, he is kind of intimidating, too, but in a good way. His name is Peter Garrett and he is an Aussie.

He also happens to be the lead singer of my favorite Australian rock band. No, not AC/DC or Jet… I am talking about Midnight Oil. My teenage music library and first introduction to MTV would not have been the same without this passionate and intense band and the beautiful but deep songs with a strong anti-nuke, anti-corporate and pro-environment message.

It was a very catchy song and easy to sing along. “How can we dance when our earth is turning? How can we sleep while our beds are burning?… The time has come to say fair’s fair… To pay the rent, to pay our share” I was trying to understand whose beds are burning? what’s not fair? Then I found out that Midnight Oil were active supporters of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and protection of the environment.

Years later I saw Midnight Oil perform this song “Beds Are Burning” at the Sydney Olympic Games and they were wearing suits with the word “SORRY” in front of 2.5 billion worldwide audience. It was a strong and bold message to a new generation. I felt challenged, inspired and convicted and I’m not even Australian. This is the power of art and music and lyrics that speak of our human brokenness and search for hope.

This is what I meant by him being intimidating in a good way. To make more sense of Peter Garrett, it is good to remember that he describes himself “a sporadic, occasional, very ecumenical, spiritual sojourner” who is committed to Christian social justice. He said that his Christian faith is his personal moral compass. Besides being a successful musician, he is also a former politician who served as Australian MP and member of the Cabinet.

One interviewer asked him, “How do you as someone with such a big profile, fame and commercial success, answer the call of humility as Christians are called to do?” Peter’s answer, “I have been around long enough to know that it is not about me. I have always believed in working with others to get things done. I have been fortunate to experience that in my time with Midnight Oil and working with my colleagues as conservation activist. To me public politics is public service. It may sound naive but I have always seen myself as someone who has chosen public service in whatever shape or form it comes.”

January 26 is Australia Day and I have very fun memories celebrating it together with friends in Perth, Western Australia. It is truly a beautiful land with breathtaking landscapes and great beaches. I have never seen sky so blue… I have also never met people who are more laid back than Aussies. No worries, mate!

So, maybe one day I will get to meet Peter Garrett and tell him in person how much I appreciate people like him. The ones who work for the healing of a nation… as in the song “One country”

Who’d like to change the world?
Who wants to shoot the curl?
Who wants to work for bread?
Who wants to get ahead?
Who hands out equal rights?
Who starts and ends that fight?
And not rant and rave,
or end up a slave.

Don’t call me baby,
Don’t talk in maybe’s,
Don’t talk like has-beens,
Sing it like it should be.

one vision, one people, one landmass
be our defenses
we have a lifeline

one ocean, one policy, see bad light,
one passion, one movement, one instant, one difference,
one life time and one understanding.

Transgression, redemption
one island blue, our place (magic),
one firmament, one element,
one moment, one fusion,
is so on time.


Photos from the Internet


Ir viens džeks, kuru es vēlētos satikt. Viņš ir ļoti garš, ļoti kalsns, ļoti plikpaurains un ļoti foršs. Un man no viņa ir mazliet bail, bet labā nozīmē. Viņu sauc Pīters Garets, un viņš ir austrālis.

Turklāt viņš ir manas mīļākās Austrālijas rokgrupas solists. Nē, nevis AC/DC vai Jet… man patīk Midnight Oil. Mana pusaudzes gadu mūzikas izlase un pirmā iepazīšanās ar MTV nebūtu bijusi tik iespaidīga bez šīs dedzīgās grupas un viņu skaistajām, vienlaikus dziļajām dziesmām ar spēcīgu vēstījumu – pret atomieročiem, korupciju, ekonomisko nevienlīdzību un par dabas aizsardzību.

Viena lipīga dziesma, kurai viegli varēju dziedāt līdzi… “kā mēs varam dejot, kamēr pasaule griežas? kā mēs varam gulēt, kamēr mūsu gultas deg? Ir pienācis laiks teikt, kas ir taisnīgs… Laiks maksāt īri, maksāt savu daļu” Es gribēju saprast, par kādām gultām ir runa? Kas nav taisnīgs? Tad uzzināju, ka Midnight Oil aktīvi iestājas par Austrālijas pamatiedzīvotāju – aborigēnu – tiesībām, un arī daudz darbojas dabas aizsardzības jomā.

Pēc vairākiem gadiem es un vēl kādi 2,5 miljardi cilvēku redzējām Midnight Oil dziedam šo pašu dziesmu “Beds Are Burning” Sidnejas Olimpisko Spēļu ceremonijā. Viņiem bija tērpi ar uzrakstu “SORRY” kā atvainošanās, kā lūgums pēc piedošanas. Tā bija spēcīga un drosmīga vēsts jaunai paaudzei. Tas izaicināja, iedvesmoja un pārliecināja, kaut es neesmu austrāliete. Tāds spēks piemīt mākslai, mūzikai un dzejai, kas runā par mūsu cilvēces salauztību un cerības meklējumiem.

Tāpēc šis cilvēks mani baida… labā nozīmē. Lai labāk izprastu Pīteru Garetu, ir vērts atcerēties, ka viņš pats sevi sauc par “izkaisītu, dažreizēju, bet garīgu ceļotāju”, kura vērtību pamatā ir kristīga izpratne par sociālo taisnīgumu. Savu kristieša ticību viņš sauc par personīgo morāles kompasu. Būdams ne tikai populārs un veiksmīgs mūziķis, bet arī bijušais politiķis gan Austrālijas parlamentā, gan kā ministrs valdībā.

Kāds žurnālists jautāja, “Kā tu savieno savu atpazīstamību, slavu un komerciālos panākumus, ar Kristus aicinājumu būt pazemīgam?” Pītera atbilde, “Es jau ilgi ar to visu nodarbojos un zinu, ka lieta negrozās ap mani. Vienmēr esmu ticējis, ka tikai strādājot kopā var kaut ko panākt. Man ir paveicies gan ar Midnight Oil, gan ar kolēģiem dabas aizsardzības organizācijās. Būt politiski aktīvam man nozīmē kalpošanu sabiedrībai. Varbūt tas izklausās naivi, bet es vienmēr esmu uztvēris sevi kā tādu, kurš ir izvēlējies kalpot sabiedrībai vienalga kādā formā vai veidā.”

Katru gadu 26. janvārī ir Austrālijas Diena. Man ir foršas atmiņas no šo svētku svinēšanas kopā ar draugiem Pērtā, Rietumaustrālijā. Tā tiešām ir skaista zeme ar elpu aizraujošiem skatiem un vienreizējām pludmalēm. Nekur citur neesmu redzējusi tik zilas debesis… Nekur citur neesmu satikusi tik atbrīvotus un nesteidzīgus cilvēkus. No worries, mate! (Nav par ko, draudziņ!)

Varbūt kādu dienu satikšu Pīteru Garetu un varēšu pateikt viņam, cik ļoti cienu tādus cilvēkus. Tos, kuri cenšas palīdzēt dziedināt savas tautas pagātni… kā grupas dziesmā “Viena valsts

Kurš grib izmainīt pasauli?
Kurš grib braukt uz viļņa?
Kurš grib pelnīt maizi?
Kurš grib izrauties?
Kurš grib vienādas tiesības?
Kurš pabeidz iesākto cīņu?
Nevis trako un ārdās, vai vergo
Nesauc mani par mazo
Nerunā varbūtībās
Nerunā par izbijušo
Dziedi par to, kā jābūt
Viens redzējums, vieni ļaudis, viena zeme
Tā mūsu aizsardzība,
Kas ļaus mums dzīvot
Pārkāpums, izpirkums
Viena zila sala, viena pasakaina vieta
Viens avots, viens elements
Viens brīdis, viens savienojums
Tieši šim laikam

Living between ‘Now’ and ‘Not Yet’

Today is Christmas Eve and I am looking forward to celebrating it with the family in Minnesota. At the same time missing my family in Latvia.

Many of us have favorite Christmas memories, so let me share mine. Growing up in Latvia while still part of the Soviet Union, we celebrated Christmas behind closed curtains. We would light candles and have a nice dinner but it was kept as a very private affair. Remember, we were living in an officially atheist country and you never knew who was watching. Somehow it made Christmas even more special, though. I liked the ‘secrecy’ and ‘mystery’ and the ‘underground’ feel of it before it became so mainstream.

My parents were not Christians and I don’t remember any conversations about God or my parents ever explaining to me what Christmas was. I just knew that it was a time of the year when you go to church and when you think about God. And I started to piece it together by listening to Christmas carols I heard in the church or from my grandmother’s stories.

Yes, I went to church on Christmas Eve. And this is my favorite memory – my dad and his childhood friend taking us, children, to the Lutheran church in Sarkandaugava, Riga. Neither dad were churchgoing but this was something they decided to do. And I loved it. I liked sitting in the balcony, listening to the choir, looking down on the huge Christmas tree and enjoying the smell of pine and candles. It felt like I was in ‘heaven’.

But the greatest impression was the Story. Usually someone read from the gospel of Luke 2:14, retelling the message proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds. “Glory to God in Heaven, and upon earth Peace, Good News to the children of men.”

I would start to cry. As soon as I heard that there will be peace on earth, I felt something in me explode. Is it really possible? It seemed too good to be true – Peace on Earth. This was the best news to me.

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I grew up in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety because of the Cold War. As children, we heard about all the threats, including the possibility of nuclear war. Also, my dad liked to watch programs on politics and history and I heard about all the different wars going on around the world. It certainly looked like people just don’t know how to get along. Even the experts did not have any answers. It was frightening to feel like there is no hope.

Then I heard it – God has an answer and His answer is Jesus. I felt power and assurance and hope and joy in this proclamation. If God is truly intervening in human affairs, then this is for real. Then nothing can stop this because God is all powerful and keeps His word.

Fast forward to 2015 and I still feel the same emotions and have the same thoughts when I hear, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Yes, the conflicts and wars are still there.  We still live between that night in Bethlehem and the future day when there is truly Peace on Earth! That is why Christmas is not the whole story… later there is Easter and even that it is not the whole story…

We are encouraged to be like children because the children are simple. They know that God keeps His word.

Merry Christmas! God bless Us, Every One!

Ģimene 106

This is one of my younger brother’s Christmas memories

Ir Ziemsvētku vakars, un priecājos sagaidīt to kopā ar ģimeni Minesotā. Vienīgi skumstu pēc saviem radiem Latvijā.

Daudziem no mums ir mīļākās Ziemsvētku atmiņas, šoreiz pastāstīšu savējās. Manā bērnībā svinējām ģimenes Ziemsvētkus aiz ‘aizvērtiem aizkariem’. Ar eglīti, svecītēm un gardām vakariņām, bet bez liekas uzmanības. Tolaik vēl bija sajūta, ka dzīvojot valstī, kur oficiālā ideoloģija ir ateisms, labāk nereklamēt savu privāto dzīvi kaimiņiem. Turklāt klāt tāds nacionālais elements. Tas lika izjust Ziemsvētkus kā kaut ko īpašu, slepenu, kā ‘pagrīdes’ aktivitāti. Ja godīgi, tā sajūta man patika labāk nekā tagadējie komerciālie, vidusmēra Ziemsvētki.

Mani vecāki nebija kristieši, un es neatceros nevienu sarunu par Dievu vai šo svētku nozīmi. Es tikai zināju, ka tajā dienā daudzi iet uz baznīcu, un tur runā par Dievu. Un es pati sāku ‘lipināt’ savus priekšstatus, klausoties Ziemsvētku korāļus vai vecmammas stāstus.

Jā, Ziemsvētkos mēs pat gājām uz baznīcu. Un tā ir mana mīļākā atmiņa – vienreiz mans tētis un viņa bērnības draugs ved mūs, bērnus, uz luterāņu baznīcu Sarkandaugavā. Neviens no tētiem nebija baznīcā gājēji, bet viņi tā nolēma. Un kā man tas patika! Man patika sēdēt balkonā… klausīties baznīcas korī, kas likās kā eņģeļu balsis…patika skatīties uz milzīgo egli un baudīt skuju un sveču smaržu. Man likās, ka esmu ‘debesīs’.

Bet vislielāko iespaidu atstāja pats Stāsts. Kāds lasīja vārdus, ko eņģeļi pasludina ganiem Lūkas vēstījumā. “Gods Dievam augstībā, un miers virs zemes cilvēkiem, pie kā Viņam labs prāts.”

Es sāku raudāt. Kad izdzirdēju vārdus par mieru pasaulē, kaut kas manī uzsprāga. Vai tas tiešām ir iespējams? Vai varu ticēt savām ausīm? Tās bija vislabākās ziņas.

Kā jau rakstīju agrāk, es uzaugu Aukstā kara baiļu un nedrošības atmosfērā. Bērnībā mēs ‘zinājām’ par draudiem, ieskaitot atomkaru. Vēl mans tētis skatījās daudz raidījumus par politiku un vēsturi, un es klausījos par visādiem kariem un konfliktiem pasaulē. Man kā bērnam bija skaidrs, ka cilvēki nemāk sadzīvot viens ar otru. Pat eksperti bija neziņā, kā to atrisināt. Ir briesmīgi dzīvot bez cerības.

Un te pēkšņi dzirdu – Dievam ir veids, kā to atrisināt. Es sajutu spēku, pārliecību, cerību un prieku. Ja Dievs ‘iejaucas’cilvēces attiecībās, tad tas ir pa īstam. Tad nekas to neapturēs, jo Dievam viss ir iespējams, un Viņš tur savu vārdu.

Patinot uz priekšu, 2015. gadā es izjūtu to pašu, kad dzirdu vārdus: “Jo mums ir piedzimis Bērns, mums ir dots Dēls, valdība guļ uz Viņa pleciem. Viņa vārds ir: Brīnums, Padoma devējs, Varenais Dievs, Mūžīgais tēvs un Miera valdnieks.”

Jā, konflikti un kari nav beigušies. Mēs joprojām dzīvojam starp nakti Betlēmē un dienu nākotnē, kad patiesi pienāks Miers virs Zemes! Tāpēc ar Ziemsvētku stāstu nekas nebeidzas… vēlāk seko Lieldienas, bet arī ar to stāsts nebeidzas…

Mums atgādina, lai topam par bērniem, jo bērni ir vienkārši. Viņi zina, ka Dievs tur savu vārdu.

Priecīgus Ziemsvētkus! Lai Dievs mūs visus svētī!

Best wishes for Latvia

What can I wish my country on this anniversary? Latvia is celebrating 97 years of independence which was declared on November 18, 1918! My grandmother is almost as old as our republic. At 92 years, she has lived a long and eventful life together with her nation. When it was new and developing fast; when it was ravaged by the war; when it was denied its freedom for many decades and when it was free again.

But life of one generation is so short. By the standards of world history, our country is still so young. Do I wish Latvia another hundred years? Or thousand years? I don’t know if I think in these terms.

We just don’t know the future… still, we are the ones who make it. And what kind of future I wish for Latvia? Here is my short list of birthday wishes.

I wish for Latvia to remain as beautiful as it is. With the sandy beaches, green forests, many lakes and rivers… fresh air, blue skies, wild berries and mushrooms. May we always enjoy the gift of ‘countryside’! May we always be good stewards of this little corner of our planet!

I wish for Latvia to be a good neighbor. Of course, our immediate neighbors but also our global neighbors. I want us to be generous in our relationships. To be outward looking and thinking. Especially I want Latvia’s people to support those nations that are struggling and longing for their freedom. We know what it is like to be trampled on and to be oppressed. May we always show compassion in words and actions! May we give others the same kind of support we were given in our time of need!

I wish for Latvia to be a good home for everyone who lives here. Our nation has always been diverse. Tragically we had times when this good life was denied. Even in our short history we have experienced too many times when different groups of people in Latvia were forced to leave their home. They were denied flourishing life (or the right to live, period) and their dignity and their future. May we never experience it again! May we always do for others what we would like them to for us!

Finally I wish for Latvia to continue growing up. We have gone a long way already but this is just the beginning. Yes, we look to the past to see where we have come from; to see how much was sacrificed to get to where we are now; to see where we don’t want to go. We look at the present to be thankful for what we have; to continue those things that bear good fruit; to be self-critical about things that bear bad fruit; to have the will and courage to change what we don’t like. We look to the future to remind us of where we want to go because we are not there yet. May we get there!

My country

One of my favorite statues in Riga… It is called “My country”

Ko lai novēlu šajā gadadienā? Latvija svin 97 gadus kā neatkarīga valsts. Manai vecmammai ir gandrīz tikpat gadu, cik mūsu republikai. 92 gadu vecumā viņa var atskatīties uz garu un notikumiem bagātu dzīvi kopā ar savu tautu. Kad Latvija bija jauna un strauji attīstījās; kad to postīja karš; kad tai tika atņemta brīvība uz daudzām desmitgadēm un kad tā atkal šo brīvību atguva.

Bet vienas paaudzes dzīve ir tik īsa. Ja skatos uz pasaules vēsturi, mūsu valsts ir vēl tik jauna. Vai es vēlu Latvijai vēl simtu gadu? Vai tūkstoš gadu? Es laikam nedomāju tādās mērvienībās.

Mēs nezinam nākotni… taču paši esam tie, kuri to veidojam. Un kādu nākotni es novēlu Latvijai? Te būs mans īsais saraksts ar dzimšanas dienas vēlējumiem.

Es novēlu, lai Latvija vienmēr paliktu tikpat skaista. Ar baltajām pludmalēm, zaļajiem mežiem, daudzajiem ezeriem un upēm… ar svaigo un tīro gaisu, ar zilajām debesīm, ar meža ogām un sēnēm. Lai mēs vienmēr varētu baudīt savus ‘laukus’! Lai mēs vienmēr rūpētos par šo mazo zemeslodes stūrīti!

Es novēlu, lai Latvija vienmēr būtu labs kaimiņš! Ne tikai tiešajiem kaimiņiem, bet arī citiem pasaulē. Es novēlu, lai Latvija būtu atvērta un devīga savās attiecībās! Īpaši vēlos, lai Latvijas cilvēki atbalstītu tās tautas, kuras cieš un vēl gaida savu brīvību. Mēs zinām, ko nozīmē būt samītiem un apspiestiem. Lai mēs vienmēr parādītu līdzjūtību un solidaritāti gan vārdos, gan darbos! Lai mēs atbalstītu citus tāpat, kā paši tikām atbalstīti mums grūtajā laikā!

Es novēlu, lai Latvija būtu labas mājas visiem, kas šeit dzīvo! Mūsu valstī vienmēr ir bijusi dažādība. Traģiski, ka reizēm šī labā dzīvē tika liegta. Mūsu īsajā valsts vēsturē ir bijuši pārāk daudzi brīži, kad Latvijas cilvēkiem (ne tikai latviešiem) bija jāpamet savas mājas. Viņiem tika liegta auglīga dzīve (vai vispār tiesības dzīvot) un cilvēka pašcieņa un iecerētā nākotne. Lai mēs vairāk nekad to nepiedzīvotu! Lai mēs vienmēr darītu citiem to, ko vēlamies, lai darītu mums!

Visbeidzot es novēlu Latvijai republikai turpināt kļūt pieaugušai. Jau tāls ceļš noiets, bet tomēr tas ir tikai sākums. Jā, mums vajag atskatīties uz pagātni, lai redzētu, kas jau ir bijis; lai novērtētu un pieminētu to, kas ir upurēts; lai zinātu, kurp mēs negribam iet un ko nevēlamies atkārtot. Mums vajag skatīties uz tagadni, lai būtu pateicīgi par to, kas mums ir; lai turpinātu tās lietas, kas nes labus augļus; lai kritizētu un atmestu tās, kas nes sliktus augļus; lai būtu griba un drosme mainīt to, kas jāmaina. Un mums vienmēr vajag skatīties uz nākotni, lai atgādinātu, uz kurieni mēs vēlamies iet, jo mēs vēl neesam tur nonākuši. Lai mēs tur nonāktu!

Freedom from fear in Myanmar

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” This conviction by Aung Sun Suu Kyi, a Burmese leader and former political prisoner, highlights an important truth. It also describes a life that is lived in a non-violent and courageous resistance to this kind of fear.

Last week Myanmar (Burma) held first democratic elections in 25 years. The votes are still being counted but it is already clear that the National League for Democracy (NLD) has won an overwhelming majority. Estimated 70% of the votes. The people have chosen and now the world is watching whether the military rulers will respect their own people’s will.

I am rejoicing together with my friends. They have been waiting for this day for a very long time… I have been waiting for this for many years, too. Ever since my husband and I started working on Thai-Burma border helping refugees from Burma, we have believed together with our friends that one day they will be able to return home, that one day their nation will be truly free.

There is lots of joy but also awareness that there is still a long and hard road ahead. The government cannot be fully democratic while 25% of the seats in the national parliament are reserved for the military and the military appoints three government ministers.  The most popular national leader to become a president would be Aung Sun Suu Kyi, but it is not possible under the current Constitution. It disqualifies anyone whose children have foreign citizenship and Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s sons have British passports because she had a British husband.

Also, there were millions of people who were not able to vote – people who live in areas where there is still armed conflict, internally displaced persons, refugees in the camps on Thailand/Burma border, migrants working in other countries, the Rohingya ethnic group…

Sill, this is an amazing and big step towards long-awaited freedom and peace. The elections were peaceful and the results make a very loud and clear statement what kind of country people want to live in. My memory flashes back to 1990 when in my own nation, Latvia, we celebrated a similar moment when the parliament voted to reinstate the independence of Latvia. My grandparents had waited for 50 years. Honestly it did not seem possible that we would experience it in our life-time, but the ‘miracle’ happened.

Then began the process of learning to live in freedom and there were many many challenges. Latvia is still dealing with some of the residue from our Soviet past. When you are not used to being free, you have to learn to be free. Physical freedom does not mean automatically a psychological and emotional and spiritual freedom where you have peace with yourself and your neighbor.

When I exchange stories with our friends from Burma, I realize that I experience an amazing journey together with my nation. Journey of hope and dream that became reality, journey of freedom from fear… Now I watch my friends making the same kind of journey and I want to help them in any way I can. This is just the start and now the real work of developing, re-building, healing and transforming begins. But today is the day of celebration!



“Nevis vara mūs samaitā, bet bailes. Bailes pazaudēt varu samaitā tos, kuriem tā pieder, un bailes no varas posta samaitā tos, kuri tai pakļauti.” Tā domā un saka Aung San Su Či, politiķe, opozīcijas vadītāja un bijusī politieslodzītā Mjanmā (Birmā). Šajos vārdos ir izteikta kāda svarīga patiesība. Un savā dzīvē viņa pati ir turējusies pie šīs pārliecības, izrādot nevardarbīgu pretestību šādām bailēm.

Pagājšnedēļ Birmā notika pirmās demokrātiskās vēlēšanas pēc 25 gadu ‘pārtraukuma’. Balsis vēl tiek skaitītas, bet jau ir pilnīgi skaidrs, ka Nacionālā Demokrātijas Līga ir guvusi pārliecinošu uzvaru. Tiek prognozēts vismaz 70% atbalsts. Cilvēki ir izdarījuši savu izvēli, un tagad visa pasaule gaida un vēro, vai militārā vara cienīs savas tautas gribu.

Es priecājos kopā ar saviem draugiem. Viņi ir gaidījuši šo dienu ļoti, ļoti ilgi… Arī es to gaidu jau daudzus gadus. Kopš mēs ar vīru sākām strādāt uz Taizemes – Birmas robežas un palīdzēt bēgļiem no Birmas, mēs ticam kopā ar saviem draugiem, ka kādu dienu viņi varēs atgriezties mājās, ka kādu dienu viņu valsts būs patiesi brīva.

Ir liels prieks, bet arī skaidra apziņa, ka priekšā garš un grūts ceļš ejams. Valdība un valsts nevar būt pilnīgi demokrātiska, kamēr militārajiem spēkiem ir atvēlētas 25% vietas parlamentā, un garantēti trīs ministru posteņi. Vispopulārākais kandidāts nākamajam Birmas prezidentam ir Aung San Su Či, bet, saskaņā ar patreizējo konstitūciju, viņa nevar ieņemt šo amatu. Tādēļ, ka prezidentam nedrīkst būt bērni ar citas valsts pilsonību, bet Su Či dēliem ir britu pases, jo viņas vīrs bija Lielbritānijas pilsonis. (Šis likums tika pieņemts tieši tādēļ, lai viņa nevarētu kļūt par prezidentu.)

Vēl viena liela problēma ir fakts, ka vēlēšanās nevarēja piedalīties vairāki miljoni cilvēku. Tie, kuri dzīvo karadarbības zonās; tie, kuri ir bēgļu gaitās gan iekšzemē, gan citās zemēs; tie, kuri strādā ārpus Birmas; Rohinga mazākumtautības cilvēki, jo tiem vispār netiek piešķirta pilsonība.

Tomēr šis ir milzīgs un liels solis uz ilgi gaidīto brīvību un mieru. Vēlēšanas noritēja mierīgi, un rezultāti ļoti skaidri un gaiši pasaka, kādā valstī cilvēki vēlas dzīvot. Atceros 1990. gadu, kad mēs Latvijā svinējām Neatkarības atjaunošanas deklarāciju. Mūsu vecvecāki un vecāki bija to gaidījuši 50 gadus. Daudzi neticēja, ka kaut ko tādu piedzīvosim savas dzīves laikā, bet notika ‘brīnums’.

Tad sākās grūtais un sarežģītais process mācīties dzīvot brīvībā. Latvijā joprojām mēs izjūtam PSRS laika un sistēmas sekas. Kad ilgu laiku nav piedzīvota brīvība, to jāmācās no jauna. Fiziska brīvība vēl nenozīmē psiholoģisku, emocionālu un garīgu brīvību, kad mēs mākam mīlēt sevi pašu un savus līdzcilvēkus.

Sarunās ar draugiem no Birmas, es arvien vairāk sāku aptvert, cik apbrīnojams ceļš iets kopā ar manu tautu Latvijā. Ceļš no cerībām un sapņiem uz realitāti, ceļš uz brīvību no bailēm… Tagad mani draugi iet šo pašu ceļu, un es vēlos viņus atbalstīt, kā vien varu. Ir pats sākums lielajam darbam, lai atjaunotu, dziedinātu, pārveidotu un attīstītu valsti, bet šodien ir diena priekam un līksmībai!

A question not to ask me

“Do you miss Latvia?” or equally irritating “Is it nice to be in Latvia?” Yes, I do get annoyed from time to time… I know it is just a nice question and usually it is part of small talk but for some strange reason I wonder why people ask me this kind of thing.

There are many things I miss about Latvia when I am away. I miss the woods and the green fields and the walks through the countryside. I miss the wild flowers and making a wreath or a simple bouquet. I miss sitting or laying in the grass and not worrying about snakes (well, there are still lots of small bugs but they are harmless). I miss swimming in the lakes and rivers and not worrying about crocodiles. I miss the Baltic Sea and finding some amber or beautiful rocks on the shore.

I miss the four seasons. Even though I wish the winter was shorter, the autumn was sunnier, the spring was earlier and the summer longer. I miss the different moods I experience during these seasons. The autumn for sure brings some melancholy. It is a great time for reading books and reflecting. The winter is perfect for cozy places and long chats with friends. The spring brings so much hope and anticipation. And the summer is simply… busy, busy, busy.

The reason why I don’t like these type of questions because I don’t like to categorize and compare. Is Latvia more beautiful than Thailand or Australia or South Africa? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I love diversity… I look at the mountains and jungles in Southeast Asia and I enjoy the sweet smell of tropical plants. I will always miss this smell.

I remember the green, rolling hills in South Africa and I start hearing the music from “The Lion King”. Yes, this is the kind of place for the King of the jungle. Can you imagine lions in Latvia? I cannot! Or giraffes? Or elephants? I will miss the big, open spaces with lots of wildlife.

Diversity is something to be celebrated. Not to be compared or rated. We are amazing because we are so different. Our planet is so beautiful because the nature and landscape is so diverse. I believe that nature teaches us many things and it tells us deep truths if we are willing to listen. It tells us that we are a part of this Creation and that we need to relate to it with love and respect. I am blessed by the simple beauty of Latvia and I hope that Latvia is blessed to have me here.

I am blessed to be here this autumn which is exceptionally sunny. The colors change weekly and sometimes daily. It is a beautiful, ever-changing canvass. There is a popular Latvian song which says, “The autumn comes to paint Latvia but don’t try so hard. She is beautiful to me… Any Way.”


Latviski: Jautājums, ko man labāk neuzdot

“Vai tu skumsti pēc Latvijas?” vai vēl kaitinošāk “Kā tev patīk Latvijā?” Jā, ir lietas, kas mani kaitina. Es saprotu, ka tā ir vienkārši pieklājīga un draudzīga saruna, bet kaut kāda iemesla pēc manī rodas šī reakcija. Kas tiek domāts ar šo jautājumu?

Ir daudzas lietas, kuras man pietrūkst, kad neesmu Latvijā. Man pietrūkst zaļie meži un pļavas un pastaigas pa laukiem. Man pietrūkst pļavas ziedi un vainagu pīšana. Man pietrūkst sēdēšana vai gulēšana zālē, kur nav jāuztraucas par indīgām čūskām (nu, kukaiņi arī reizēm traucē, bet tie ir tik nekaitīgi). Man pietrūkst peldēšanās upēs un ezeros, kur nav jāuztraucas par krokodiliem. Vēl man pietrūkst Baltijas jūra, un smuku akmentiņu un dzintara meklēšana.

Man pietrūkst četri gadalaiki. Kaut gan ziema varētu būt īsāka, rudens varētu būt saulaināks, pavasaris varētu būt agrāks, un vasara garāka. Man pietrūkst tie dažādie noskaņojumi, ko izraisa gadalaiki. Rudens vienmēr ir melanholisks pārdomu laiks, kad var lasīt grāmatas un domāt par dzīvi. Ziemā ir forši iekārtoties kādā siltā stūrītī, un jauki pavadīt laiku ar draugiem. Pavasarī rodas daudz cerību un gaidu. Un vasarā vienkārši… visam nepietiek laika.

Man laikam nepatīk šie jautājumi, jo nevēlos salīdzināt. Vai Latvija ir skaistāka par Taizemi, Austrāliju vai Dienvidāfriku? Ir tāds teiciens, ka skaistumu piešķir tas, kurš skatās. Man patīk dažādība. Kad esmu Dienvidāzijā un skatos uz kalniem un džungļiem, es ieelpoju smaržīgo tropu gaisu. Man patīk turienes augu un ziedu smarža. Tā vienmēr pietrūks.

Kad atceros Dienvidāfrikas zaļos, maigos pakalnus, man ausīs sāk skanēt mūzika no multenes “Karalis Lauva”. Jā, šeit var dzīvot dzīvnieku karalis. Vai variet iedomāties lauvas Latvijā? Es nevaru! Vai arī žirafes? Un ziloņus? Man pietrūks tie lielie plašumi, kur tik daudz savvaļas dzīvnieku.

Dažādību vajag svinēt. Nevis salīdzināt un sacensties. Mēs paši esam tik apbrīnojami, jo esam tik dažādi. Mūsu planēta ir tik skaista, jo daba un skati ir tik daudzveidīgi. Es ticu, ka daba māca mums daudzas un dziļas patiesības, ja esam gatavi ieklausīties. Tā atgādina, ka esam daļa no Radības, kuru mums jāmīl un jāciena. Man Latvijas vienkāršais skaistums ir par svētību, un ceru, ka arī mana klātbūtne ir Latvijai par svētību.

Vēl esmu pateicīga, ka šogad varēju piedzīvot tik saulainu un skaistu rudeni. Krāsas mainījās pa nedēļām un dažreiz dienām. Kā viena liela, mainīga, dzīva glezna. Kā dziesmā, “Nāk rudens apgleznot Latviju, bet nepūlies, necenties tā. Man viņa ir visskaistākā… Tik un Tā!”