One Month to Riga

It’s that time again. Creative and unusual hodgepodges of food have started to make their appearance on our dinner table. Bags of donations have been taken to the local Goodwill. Organizing paperwork into piles for keeping, recycling, and shredding has begun. Shopping for items that we anticipate  needing in the next two years, while trying to get rid of odds and ends that promise only to take up space in our suitcases if we keep them, has commenced.

It’s moving time.

One month from today, M., Frieda, and I will arrive in Riga, Latvia, where we will be living for at least the next two years. We have begun to count down the days, as our calendar fills up with a mix of appointments, tasks, and visits with family and friends that are sure to keep us busy right up until we depart on May 7.

It seems like yesterday that we arrived in Virginia after wrapping up our first Foreign Service tour in Matamoros, Mexico last summer, and now, suddenly, it seems, our meals are based on what we can use up from the pantry. It always amazes me how quickly moving time comes around… a reminder that everything is so temporary. Last night, I made my burghul salad with dried fruit and pine nuts, and for dessert, lemon bars, using coconut oil instead of butter, which I am not quite sure I’d do again, as the crust is a bit too crumbly. But, they taste great and now I have less coconut oil… mission accomplished. I see more creations with coconut oil in our near future, as well as corn bread, falafel, and anything that can help me use up our giant bottle of soy sauce. Let’s not mention the few items that we still have from our pantry in Matamoros and have not yet used.

Burghul Salad with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

This burghul salad with dried fruit and pine nuts is my own little creation and used up quite a few items from our pantry!

Last week, we received our housing assignment. We will be living in a residential neighborhood a few kilometers from Riga’s Old Town. Our housing preferences for close proximity to work, a little yard for Frieda, and a quiet environment have all been honored by the Embassy, and we couldn’t be more excited about that. From the photos we received, our future home looks to be very cozy and comfortable. The only downside is that the house won’t be ready for us until the end of June, which means we will be staying in a hotel for our first seven weeks in Riga. Although this wasn’t the news we were hoping for, it provides us yet another opportunity to exercise flexibility and patience in Foreign Service life.

On a similar subject, I have decided that moving overseas with a large dog is not for the impatient and inflexible. Although there must be thousands of people who travel internationally with their pets every day, the paperwork and bureaucracy involved certainly don’t make it easy. We have learned a lot about the requirements and very specific timeline of events that need to fall into place in order for us to bring Frieda to Latvia.

Since Frieda already has the microchip required by the European Union and is current on all of her vaccinations, the process will be a bit easier for us (and, all told, EU requirements for bringing a pet from the US are less strict than those of many other parts of the world). We need to visit our vet no more than ten days prior to our arrival in Riga for completion of the health certificate that we will need to travel. This is an hour-long appointment during which our vet will complete our forms and attest that Frieda is in good health, fit for travel, and meets Latvia’s requirements for importing pets. Following that visit, we have to have the health certificate approved and stamped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The only place where this can be done is in Richmond, Virginia, about 100 miles from where we currently live. (I still can’t quite comprehend how it’s possible that there is no USDA office here in Washington, DC, where USDA is headquartered, to do this, but that is neither here nor there at this point.) After hearing a few too many stories about mix-ups with the mail, I have decided that it will be easiest to drive to Richmond two days before we leave for Riga to get the form signed and stamped in person. Today I made an appointment for that, and we should now be all set. Assuming all goes well, I will return from Richmond on May 5th with all of the paperwork we need for Frieda, ready to travel on the 7th. We will then have a few days’ cushion just in case Frieda is not accepted on our flight, for whatever reason- too hot a temperature, having the wrong kind of crate, etc. My hope is that the many hours I have spent carefully researching and planning for Frieda’s travel will pay off and everything will go well. Still, it’s always good to have a back-up plan.


Frieda just loves her airline travel crate. We bought more than three months ago so that she would have plenty of time to get used to it and see it has a happy, cozy place.

Meanwhile, all of our other moving preparations are slowly coming together. Our list of things to do is getting shorter. Our car will be picked up for shipping on April 27. The movers will be coming to pack up and ship our belongings on May 3rd. In the coming weeks, we will have all of our medical and dental appointments. We have begun collecting items that we may need or want while in Riga, based on advice we’ve received from others who are currently there. My wonderful parents will be coming for our last week here to help us with our final preparations (I’m hoping they’ll be excited about taking a drive to Richmond!) and to take us to the airport. And, bless them, even to take care of Frieda should anything go against our plans.


My little kitchen stockpile with a few things that we have been told are expensive or difficult to find in Riga. On the list: chocolate chips, almond butter, tahini, baking soda, and spices. I know I will be happy to have these things in the fall months and holiday season.


These extra large rolling duffels from L.L. Bean came highly recommended to us by other fellow Foreign Service families. They are waiting for their first trip in a month!


Of course, we definitely can’t move abroad without our running shoes! We each have an extra pair for later on, as word has it that running shoes can be quite expensive in Riga. When these wear out, there’s always online ordering… a nice little advantage that we didn’t have as Peace Corps Volunteers.

Although our move to Riga will be my 27th move in my life, it is by far the most complicated yet. There have been times when I have wanted to pull my hair out (and more such times may still lie ahead), but in the end, this is the life we signed up for. And in the end, everything has a way of working out just as it should… something I keep telling myself when the going gets tough.

Thank you for reading!

(Cover photo of Riga at top from

2 thoughts on “One Month to Riga

  1. I brought my cat from China back to the US and I remember an exhaustive number of appointments and certificates necessary to make it happen! I’m sure it It will be a relief when it’s all taken care of. On another note, I wonder why baking soda is expensive in Riga?


    • Thank you so much for your comment and good wishes! I hope it will all come together when we travel, and yes, it will be a huge relief! I thought it odd, too, that baking soda would be expensive in Riga, but it was on the list of “hard to get/expensive” items that I received from the school where I will be teaching, so I figured I might as well pack some, since I bake quite a bit. 🙂


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