When we arrived in Latvia, the weather was warm, not really warm but warmer here than in Provo, Utah or much of the rest of the United States as well, so we liked it immediately.
We moved into the Mission Home apartment while being trained, not moving into our real apartment until our trainers left because we were to live in the apartment they were using. We learned how to catch a bus down to the Riga Center Church and soon were brave enough to do it all by ourselves; that is, if we stayed on Brivibas Iela (Iela means street, we think). Our apartment and the Mission Office are three bus stops from the rented building where church is held so we let ourselves think we were adventurous, but we really weren’t.
The apartment was a little cool, but we were OK, until it really got cold. When the temperature hovered around 5 F degrees, our hot water radiators just couldn’t keep up, a condition that was not helped by my messing with the controls and throwing the system balance all out of kilter. Finally, with the weather moderating a wee bit, climbing up to 21 F degrees, and an ‘aha’ moment I had, we got the place up to a comfortable 72 degrees, partly with me stopping worrying about the gas cost and turning the boiler all the way up.
In the meantime, we were learning our jobs, me as the Finance Secretary and Julia as the Front Desk Secretary. All I do is reimburse the missionaries for money they spend while Julia answers the phone and fills our several very important weekly reports, and of course, is the face of the office when missionaries drop in. The missionaries like me because I give them money, but they love Julia because she mothers them and make them feel loved and needed. I like to think the difference is because I have a back office and she is at the front desk, but I know that isn’t true.
Several weeks later, I discovered my bus skills were woefully inadequate because as we tried to go to a baptism at the Imanta Chapel, I took us off the bus 5 stops before we were supposed to get off. The next bus was due in a half hour so we bailed, and took a bus bound for the city center headed for home, but it didn’t go where we expected, so we ended up walking almost a kilometer on slushy sidewalks with a headwind, to get to a bus stop we recognized. We got home sore and cold but returned to a warm apartment, because I had neglected to turn down the boiler.
Our apartment is on Sencu Iela about a hundred meters from Brivibas Iela and about 250 meters from a bus stop, on the fifth floor of an apartment building. As an aside, it seems all buildings are apartment buildings, with a multi-level shopping complex every now and then. Our apartment has two huge floor to ceiling windows on the south-southwest side which is why it is cold. We hold an electronic card up to a keypad on the elevator to open the door or bring it up to the apartment, but to get it to take us up to the 5th floor, I have to insert a special key into a specific lock. I worry myself silly that I might forget and leave the key at the apartment then not be able to get home some night. Julia carries a backup key and I have left one in the Mission Office just in case. Oddly, the elevator opens up in the apartment, into a foyer separated from the living area by a cloth covering the entry way. This cloth is one of the reasons the place is so cold. There isn’t a real door in the entry way to keep the cold our and the warm in. I hope we still like this place after the summer, but I understand it gets real hot with the setting sun pouring in. Our contract comes up for renewal in August so we will have an opportunity to change then.
Several weeks after we settled into the apartment, we discovered there was a Mall further out on Brivibas Iela named ‘Alfa’. We took a bus out there on New Years Day only to find it closed, except for a Rimi Hyper Market, whatever a Hyper Market is. It is a grocery store like a quarter-sized Walmart with clothes and food, large by Riga standards, so the trip wasn’t a bust. On a different day we visited Alfa finding a large number of speciality shops with familiar brand names, like Perrie Cordan and Crocks and others which are simply brands in the US, but here they are whole shops. Want Ecco shoes, go to the Ecco shoe store.
Excitement at the apartment
I had turned the heat up as far as it would go to try to warm the apartment, but on February 6, I forgot to turn it down when we left for the office. We worked into the evening then returned home finding the room had warmed to 76 F, but we heard someone speaking. I opened the bathroom door, then walked past the table and heard the detector saying “Warning, Carbon Monoxide” repeatedly.
We pulled back the curtain and opened the outside door trying to get a cross current of fresh air. I turned off the boiler and silenced the alarm, but it alarmed again and was soon joined by the other CO alarm in the room. The third time it alarmed, we decided to leave the apartment. We called President Boswell and our landlady then Sister Tuck threw some things into a suitcase and we walked toward the office. Transfers were happening and the mission home was loaded with missionaries headed home, so they had no room.
The AP Elders met us at the office and took us to the Radisson Hotel where we spent the night.
The next morning, I called the gas company and met them in the apartment. They kept asking if I had smelled gas, which I had not, but they replaced an ‘O’ ring in the gas meter anyway and left. I called the gas company again asking for the phone numbers of people who could service the boiler and the second one I called could come out. I met with them, and they pulled out the washer and found the water feed line filter was plugged, then they dismantled the boiler, cleaned it thoroughly and checked the draft. I called the landlady and had her talk with the service men which was good, because their English was lacking. It cost 30 Euros but when they left, I felt the problem had been fixed.
Afterwards, I turned the heat back on, but had to turn it way down because the room was getting too hot. Of course, the outside temperature has been moderating but cleaning the boiler has really made a difference. It looked like the boiler had never been serviced.
We kept hearing about a Home depot look-a-like named, fittingly, Depo, so we wanted to visit it. The Alfa mall had some hardware, but just a small amount. Searching on the source of al knowledge, the Internet, I found there was a Depo store out Brivibas Iela several miles beyond Alfa, and a kilometre beyond the last bus stop. So we determined we would take a bus to Alfa then a taxi to Depo, then catch a taxi back to Alfa, thinking it wouldn’t cost a huge amount.
The taxi driver we found at Alfa had no idea where Depo was, so he drove where I told him, then told me it was ‘Depo’ with the ‘e’ sounding like an ‘a’. It was a great store, and made me feel right at home. The adventure happened when we called another taxi to take us back to Alfa. We were picked up OK, but the highway had a fence down the center and the taxi fees exceeded 5 Euros before the cabbie found a place to turn around. This ended up costing us over 20 Euros, but we found a really good store to buy things we really don’t need.
Next time we will take the correct bus and walk the remaining kilometre, or plead with the AP Elders to take us in the Mission Van.
More Carbon Monoxide
Again, I left the heat on in the apartment and when we came home a CO monitor was alarming. So we called our landlady who called the gas company. This time they arrived while the CO detector was alarming, but since they work for the gas company, there was nothing they could do. She then called the service men who previously serviced the furnace and was told there was nothing more they could do. We ended up spending the night at another Hotel, a Day’s Inn look-a-like named Day’s Hotel, still part of the same chain, Wyndom. It was a very good room and only 48 Euros and the breakfast the next morning was superb.
The landlady was able to get a Chimney Sweep to check out the flue and determine what needed to be done to eliminate the CO production. When he came, he was dressed in the signature garb, looking very dapper. He found the flue in great shape which meant the boiler was starved for air which meant one of two things, first the furnace requires outside air or something was blocked. We ultimately found an input air vent covered by plastic sheets with the words “Winter Season… Card keep ‘Cold’ out!” That card was blocking the air needed for the proper furnace operation. Problem solved.