Camp is over and we have returned from Latvia! It went slow and it went fast, especially the last few days as we celebrated the last day of camp, Jani day, and wrapped up our trip.
Day 5 at camp shook up our typical routine. We spent the morning doing our normal volleyball session, which included stretches, a much-loved game of dodge ball, and some scrimmages. But we shook things up handing out t-shirts and taking pictures.
The afternoon session, however, had even more surprises for the campers. For warm-up, we were treated to a professional, super-star warm up led by Ance, who was a national’s player for Latvia and beach volleyball champion. Her warm-up was active, waking everyone up from their food commas (the food all week was catered by a delicious local restaurant!).
Once all our muscles got a good jump start, we ended the volleyball portion of camp with some round-robin play. This was a perfect way to see how each camper improved their volleyball skills throughout the week, and to have some healthy competition too. Even the coaches joined in!
Following volleyball, we all headed to Matthew’s Church for our closing camp ceremony. Boy was the closing ceremony a blast—not only did we congratulate each camper individually, but we got to commune together over cherries and pastries too! Marci impressed us all by knowing the name of every single camper, without help, and even had the pronunciations too!
As coaches, both from Suburban and Matthew’s Church, we celebrated our successful week of camp with Gatis and Ance’s favorite—pizza!
While the official summer solstice was Thursday, the official celebrations of Ligo-Jani day are celebrated on Saturday. So, our team followed in suit and made the day an adventure. While we didn’t make flower crowns or jump over fires, typical activities of this Latvian holiday celebration, we did make the day quite the Latvian excursion. The day began with a pastry brunch with at Ance’s sister’s bakery across the river. Both sweet and savory, these delicious treats gave us a sugary start to our day and put smiles on our faces. As Ance, the Nike trainer, says, “you can never have too much sweets.” So true! And what better way to experience a country than through its bakery delights!
Kuldiga was our next stop. This is an old town in Western Latvia that is full of historical sites. From Latvian symbols everywhere, to old churches and castles, this was your typical picture-esque European town. It even had an additional feature—Europe’s widest falls, the Ventra Rapid. Laurel, Aleasha, and Ahnika chose to brave the walk, with only one of them getting a bit wet. The rest of us chose to take a walk and watch their balance from afar.
From Kuldiga we visited Ganibas, a Christian camp celebration for Jani day, and then watched the sunset on the beaches of Ventspils, a coastal town. We truly got to experience Latvia’s beauty that day from food, to history, architecture, and landscape.
Our last full day in Latvia was spent in Cesis visiting castles and embracing the rain. Although it was a bit chilly and drizzly that day, we could not complain given the warm and sunny weather we had had all week. And in the company of Inga, life was a hoot.
All to say, we’re a little better at volleyball, a tad bit sore, and a whole lot in love with Latvia and Matthew’s Church Family. We are so grateful for our sister church and the ways it brings us into closer community with a part of God’s Global Church.