A bit about myself first. I am an Australian who volunteered a Grasi for a month between January and February 2014. My name is Matisse Valette and first of all I want to answer the unspoken question, why would I volunteer in Latvia, of all places? Well, to me it was a natural thing. My grandparents were Latvian, my mother could speak Latvian, why not try to relearn the language of half of my heritage?
I arrived at the children’s village of Grasi during the last week of January, ready to begin my four week stay. The first couple days were spent getting to know Grasu Pils, its children and the work I would be doing. Speaking to Sandra prior had given me some idea of what I was supposed to do; “clearing snow and chopping wood”. I found that the sun and the warm temperatures (0-3*C) did most of the first job for me leaving me mostly the second job to focus on.
Not to say it didn’t snow! We had some pretty good snow fights! I also spent a lot of time on the ice pulling the little ones around and around and around! Each house had their own favourite game, in one, a board game of ice hockey, in another, UNO and in yet another, spinning tops.
It must have been halfway through the second week when I made a large breakthrough in how to live in Latvia. Milk (‘piens’) comes in bags, not plastic or cardboard cartons like elsewhere in the world. I also have to mention the tea. I have never before been to such a tea-adoring country.
Finally, I have to thank the wonderful community of Grasi for the wonderful time I had. A big thank you to Sandra for organising this unique opportunity and also for dropping me off and picking me up from the apartment I was staying at. I also have to thank Maris for picking me up and dropping me off to my apartment. This saved me the trudge through the snow each day. Thirdly, I have to thank the educators for the kindness in which they treated me day in, day out. Last, but never in the whole world least, I have to say ‘paldies’ to the children who readily (and patiently) let me into their homes. All in all, I had great time and I hope to return in the future.