Learning the Language and Drinking Tea

Learning Latvian can take many forms. One way happens in the classroom – we have classes 2 mornings a week. Another way happens in ordinary experiences – like shopping.

So during our first week, Court and I decided to pick up some milk while buying some other groceries. I stood in the dairy section scanning all the cardboard cartons of various sizes and various prices. I noticed the numbers conveying milk fat (no terms of fat-free, skim or whole to help) and I found one at 1.8%. Satisfied that I had found milk as close as possible to skim, I tromped off to find Courtney and declare victory at finding milk for her cereal and our tea – (when moving to a new culture, it’s the little successes that can make one’s day!)

We walked home, started the kettle for tea, and unloaded the groceries filling our European fridge, which took about 15 seconds and consisted of 7 items.

I don’t remember why I went to the living room, yet I remember the startled outburst from Courtney as she made tea in the kitchen. I ran around the corner to see a very perplexed look on her face…

We now know that kefirs (a mix between buttermilk and plain drinking yogurt with an odor of sour milk) is not milk, as kefirs does not look, smell, or taste the same as milk. We quickly learned that piens is Latvian for milk.
~ Dan

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2 responses to “Learning the Language and Drinking Tea

  1. Hello guys! My wife and I had a similar experience with “milk” last summer during a 10 day mission trip to Latvia. Our first night in country we stayed in downtown Riga in the Metrolux. As it was summer, the daylight lingered most of the night so my wife and I thought we might get some milk. At the Rimi I scanned just like you did and made the same mistake (although I never learned what exactly I drank, but it came out of the carton like latex paint!) I laughed out loud when I read your story. I really miss Latvia and the people especially. May God bless you and your wife. I can only imagine the winters are very long but summer is beautiful.

  2. Hello! I am so thankful that the two of you are serving God in Latvia. After a summer mission trip there my wife and I are forever attached to the country and the United Methodist effort there. While on our trip this past summer, we experienced a similar incident with “milk”. While spending our first night in Riga after a long plane ride, we decided that since it was summer and seemingly not ever going to get dark, we would go to the Rimi and get some milk. I stood in front of the refridgerated section scanning just like you did and came to the same conclusion. When we returned to the hotel and I “poured” a glass of what looked like latex paint. It looked strange enough, but I drank it anyway. Very interesting. Thanks for finding out what it was I drank and I never knew. May God bless your mission and the people whom you are serving. Say hello to the church in Kuldiga too.

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