At The Table: Touring Latvia

Editor’s Note: At the Table is an international exchange program that connects high school students in Philadelphia and Riga. The program, undertaken by the National Constitution Center in collaboration with the National History Museum of Latvia, began the travel portion of the project. One student participant, Lionel Detchou, discusses his experience doing service abroad.

This was our fourth day in Riga and by far the best. We started by visiting the Russian school (10th Secondary School) where we learned about the history of the Olympic Games and about the Latvian Olympic Committee. The tour of the school was amazing and everywhere we went, we were always warmly welcomed. The high schools in Riga are different than ours, but the students are just like us.

After that we went to Araisi, an open air museum, to do our service project.  There are over 100 species of birds that reside on the museums grounds and in the museum’s trees.

So, we built bird houses for them to live in. It was a new experience for all of us, and I particularly enjoyed doing it. We literally were given planks of wood, nails, hammers, and were told to assemble the houses. It was fun to work side-by-side my Latvian friends.

We laughed as we made mistakes together and worked hard to make several houses each and hang them up on high trees. Then, we had a picnic outside in the snowy museum area all together. I can’t wait to go back 5 years later and see what birds are living in the bird house I made.

We concluded the day in the small town of Cesis where we visited a 13th century Castle. It was the first time most of us saw a “real” castle and the fact that it was so ancient made it even more exceptional. We had to use lanterns inside because obviously there was no electricity in the 13th century when the castle was built.

Personally, being inside a castle made me feel like a knight or an important member of the Royal Court. It made me dream about the medieval times and the way things might have been back then.

At the Table: Connecting Culture, Conversation and Service in Latvia and the U.S. was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with American Association of Museums. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State.

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