Table Tennis at the Korean Embassy, Enjoying the Positivus Festival & a Trip to Jelgava

Hi everyone,

Now that the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Canada Day are over, things are slowing down around the office. A lot of people in public service are on vacation, so there are fewer events to attend and fewer requests for information.

One interesting thing that did happen this month was a trip to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a post-Presidency briefing. During these briefings, people from the diplomatic service, different ministries, and sometimes press, present a topic and facilitate discussion.

While it was intriguing to see what an actual briefing was like, it wasn’t really what I’d pictured. A lot of what was discussed were things I’d already heard in the papers or in recaps of other Presidency events.  So, in that sense it was kind of dull. It’s funny when you hear about events that sound prestigious or cool, and then attend them to find out they are not all that you think they will be. I guess that’s also part of the learning process.

In other news, the Korean Embassy teamed up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to host a diplomatic table tennis tournament! A few years ago, I was part of a Model UN course that represented the Republic of Korea at the national competition in New York. Since the Korean Embassy in Ottawa was incredibly helpful and welcoming to our class, I wanted to support the embassy here by participating in the tournament. Plus, they had Korean BBQ, which was impossible to turn down.

Overall, I was really glad I went because it gave me the opportunity to talk to some of our MFA colleagues. I’ve met some of them briefly at Canada Day and at other events. In this setting, they were more relaxed and really lovely to talk to. I haven’t made a lot of friends with local Latvians, so this offered me a great opportunity to get to know some new people.

Another great place to meet some locals was the Positivus festival. It’s the largest open air music festival in the Baltics, and drew over 25,000 people for the weekend. I’ve never attended a music festival, and haven’t camped in years. Regardless, a bunch of us interns bought 12 euro tents and sleeping bags and headed into the woods. It was such a great decision!

Although some of the bands weren’t my style, there was a lot of music that I really liked. I would recommend looking into Dorian Concept, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Ewert and the Two Dragons, Max Jury, and Fenech-Soler. When we weren’t on the festival grounds, we were trying to make friends on the campsites. When people heard that some of us were visiting from so far away, they were really interested in learning more about us. I took the opportunity to ask more about cultures across the Baltics. And if there was a group where English wasn’t widely spoken, the ability to give them the proper lyrics to Oasis’ “Wonderwall” was always a huge advantage 🙂

While the Positivus festival was great, I was exhausted the entire week afterwards. I worked late Monday and Tuesday, helping to prepare for a trip to the city of Jelgava. I joined the Ambassador and our Trade Officer on this regional visit. The purposes of these visits are to create better ties with the local community, learn about what is going on there, and to represent Canada’s priorities. Before the visit, we prepared biographies of all of the people we would be meeting, company profiles, and background about the city itself.

During the visit, we met with city representatives as well as executives from two companies that produce timber products, a dairy coop that makes cheese, and a helicopter company that acts as a regional representative for a Canadian helicopter company. The city representatives were incredibly welcoming: they told us a lot about Jelgava and showed us some key sites. Company executives took us on tours of their factories, and discussed their respective industries and specialized products.

On our side, the Ambassador spoke to the businesses about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the benefits it posed for trade and collaboration between Latvians and Canadians. For my part, I was frantically scribbling notes, juggling our camera for archival photos and an Ipad to get photos for Twitter. It was an excellent learning opportunity to see how people interact on these visits, and enabled me to understand the amount of planning for such an event.

I’ve got a bit over 3 weeks until I come home. I’m starting to get a little homesick.  To stave it off, I’ve made some great friends, established good relationships with my colleagues, and have set a routine. However, homesickness still hits once in a while, and is becoming more frequent. Some of it probably has to do with some great things lined up when I get home, and I’m excited to return to them. That said, I know my last few weeks of this internship will be what I make of them. So I’m going to try my best to find some interesting projects to work on or events to attend!

Until next time,

Natalie

*The views expressed in this blog post are the author’s own and do not reflect those of the Canadian Government.*

Photo Credit: Anna Hanks via photopin (CC)

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