Life at the Radisson

IMG_0600_2I am a homebody. I always have been, and I always will be. I like to sit on the couch and read. I like to cook and bake in the kitchen. I like to sew while listening to music. If given the option to go out with friends or have them over and cook for them, I will almost always choose the latter. And though it’s true that I love to run outside for hours at a time and travel to places near and far, I always look forward to the moment when I can come back home… home to my family, my space, and the possessions I have moved from house to house over the last decades which still, when configured just the right way, can make any space feel like home. After living in a hotel for the last four weeks, the idea of soon having a home again is so exciting I can barely stand it.

Our hotel stay since we arrived in Riga has been nothing but pleasant, thanks to the embassy staff’s careful planning and thoughtful efforts to make it so. Our room is clean and comfortable, we can easily walk to Old Riga, and parks and running trails abound just outside the hotel’s front doors. But just like any hotel, ours is just that: a hotel, a temporary home, usually not much more than a place to rest one’s head after spending the daytime hours out and about, whether for business or pleasure. It is not meant to be a place for putzing around, working on projects, and preparing meals. In its design and purpose, a hotel is not a place for a homebody.

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We do our best to stay entertained.

When we learned that we would begin our tour in Riga with a hotel stay lasting nearly two months because our housing is not yet ready for us, I felt a pang of disappointment, not because I didn’t think the hotel would be nice; rather, because for the last year, we have been in a state of transition, and I had been dreaming of the day when we would finally be (somewhat) settled. I longed for that golden period of about a year and a half when we would be neither packing nor unpacking, when we could establish a routine and delight in the everydayness of it. The news of the hotel stay pushed my dream back a little bit, but as always, we are doing our best to make the most of it, using the absence of a stove as an excuse to try many of Riga’s fabulous restaurants and taking in the beautiful panoramic view of the old town each time we look out the window.

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Last weekend, we caught part of a huge bike race and tour whose route went right in front of our hotel.

I suppose that for some, living in a hotel might be the ultimate in convenience and luxury. Clean linens every day if you want them (we don’t) and turn-down service if that’s what you are into (we aren’t… and I don’t even really know what that means). When Valerie moved into the Bel Age hotel in season five of Beverly Hills, 90210, it was all roses, champagne, and room service… until of course she seduced Donna’s boyfriend and eventually got herself evicted. I just couldn’t believe she would move out of the cozy Walsh house. She always had that vendetta against Kelly, but still. The Walsh house was idyllic, a homebody’s heaven, from what I could tell on the other side of the TV screen. Different strokes, I guess. But I digress….

In a way, I am beginning to feel like the Tom Hanks character in The Terminal. Have you seen that movie? Just as the protagonist became so intimately familiar with the airport terminal in which he was stranded, I have come to know the hotel’s quirks. The elevator doors stay open for exactly three seconds before they will slam shut on your shoulders if you aren’t yet all the way in or out. And if you push the up button after a full elevator closes its doors without counting to two-Mississippi, the doors will open again, and the people inside will stare at you and wonder why you’re staring back at them. Similarly, when the front doors of the hotel get stuck, you can get them to open by waving your hands high in front of the sensors. The hotel employees are kind and they know us by now, if not by name, then definitely by room number and of course, they know Frieda. We have eaten at nearly every table in the dining room (there are many), and we have tried nearly everything on the menu in the hotel’s restaurant. Although it does not feel like home, being here has become comfortable in its own strange way.

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Did somebody say comfortable? Somehow, this is comfortable. I don’t know how, but clearly it is.

Indeed, there are some definite perks of hotel life. The breakfast buffet every morning is outstanding. The offerings are more or less the same every day, but there is so much variety that it seems it would be impossible to get tired of it. Still, we notice when the muffin selection changes from chocolate to blueberry and we exchange knowing glances, our eyes twinkling. The fitness center and pool are like none I have ever seen at a hotel, and there are almost always taxis waiting outside to take us across the bridge into Old Riga- a free ride, if we ask for a voucher from the hotel concierge- when we don’t want to walk. These taxis also come in handy for the trip across town with a suitcase full of dirty clothes to Riga’s only laundromat… a trip I’ve made three times now because the cost of washing the same amount of clothes through the hotel’s laundry service exceeds the room rate for ten-night stay. An egregious waste of government funds, if you ask me.

Although I have made it a point to get out of the room and explore all of the things that make Riga so wonderful, the homebody in me still likes to have some down time, especially since I can’t always take Frieda with me on my local excursions, and I hate the idea of her sitting all alone in the room. And so, I’ve read a couple of books and started knitting a scarf that I probably won’t finish for a few months. I’ve flipped through the TV channels and learned through European MTV, which actually features music videos and not reality shows, that Taylor Swift dominates the airwaves, Maroon 5 made an entire video while crashing people’s weddings, and Tom Hanks (speaking of him earlier) stars in and lip syncs alongside Carly Rae Jepsen in her video I Really Like You. We can watch American films on one of the channels, which seems to favor Nicholas Sparks movies on Sunday afternoons, and for some really intense language study, we can watch American movies dubbed in Russian with Estonian subtitles on a different channel.

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Frieda’s favorite spot for people and dog watching when we aren’t outside.

Since we arrived, our hotel has been a hotbed of political and VIP activity, between Latvia’s holding of the EU Presidency and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s recent visit to Riga. Motorcades and Secret Service agents are the norm, and maneuvering around them with an energetic dog who tries to greet everyone with her tongue has been awkward, to say the least. Just this morning, as I headed out for a run, I stepped into the elevator and was immediately engulfed by five members of the German delegation wearing dark suits and stern faces. The 20-second ride to the lobby felt like an hour as I stood there in my running shorts, my hair a frizzy mess and tied back with a headband, the only sound coming faintly from my iPod as Dwight Yoakam crooned, I’m a thousand miles from nowhere… time don’t matter to meeee… ’cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere… and there’s no place I wanna beeee…. Yeah, that just about sums it up.

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A couple of weeks ago, we woke up to 24 police cars parked outside the hotel’s entrance for the Eastern Partnership Summit of the European Union. The hotel hosted many prime ministers and their staffs.

Indeed, the last few weeks have been a mix of comfort in spite of transience, of convenience in spite of feeling unsettled, and most of all, of gratitude in spite of longing. Gratitude for the opportunity to be here, in Riga, such a beautiful city, for the work that has brought us here, and for the benefit of being surrounded by all of the creature comforts that come with our temporary home, though I long for the day when we can prepare a meal in our kitchen and invite people to our home and for that feeling of being settled, even if just for a short time until our next move. That day is coming in just a few weeks… the day when we will begin to feel like residents rather than visitors, when I can revel in being a homebody once again.

Thank you for reading!

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