So – come and gone is the most Latvian of all holidays – the midsummer night, that we celebrate on the 23rd of June (Līgo), the eve of Jani holiday that is on the 24th. We are mindful however that the real summer solstice is a few days earlier (this year it was the night of the 20th), and quite a few people I knew did something that day as well to mark the longest day of the year. This year it was especially important, as it was already known that the weather on the Jani eve is going to be appalling. There is even an expression: “It rains like on Jāņi!” And it was very true this year.

The kids and I accompanied by their 6 year old cousin Jete went to the country side ahead of time, so we enjoyed two days of sunshine and swimming in the (not too warm) lake. Despite the fact that it seems that the real summer (with a nice warm lake) has not started yet, I am inspired to swim every time I get a chance, because of the wonders it does to my back, which has been hurting a lot. Swimming and … no kidding… crawling on all fours for about 50-60 meteres around the grassy areas in our country side (it is possible indoors too, but it is not very good for the knees).

And we saw so many storks on the way there and back. About 6,000 – 7,000 storks come to nest in Latvia from Africa every year. All through May one can spot the tops of their heads in their huge nests on the electricity polls everywhere, and then later they are walking around fields looking for prey (they do eat frogs and other small animals) and you can often see them feeding their young in their nests. On the way back from the country side, I had an ample opportunity to observe the storks, even though I was not my calmest, because one of the brakes of my car had a leak and I had to go 40 – 50 km per hour, so I can brake with the engine in the case of an emergency.

I took it as a learning experience. I did not know how little one had to brake if one was not going fast, and every time I braked (contrary to what is shown in movies, it is usually just one of the brakes that is broken and it is still possible to brake, even though it is harder than usually) I lost the precious brake oil, so I went miles and miles without braking at all on the lonely country road, which then turned into a major highway, where everybody was going faster than us with our emergency lights blinking at a fetal heart-rate. Being overtaken by everybody was probably the most challenging experience.

Feeling the stupidity of it, I was wondering what they all were thinking of me, a single woman with two small children in the car driving at the speed which was half the average at least. The day after Jani is always the funniest driving-wise anyways, as so many women who do not drive on daily basis, are sitting behind the wheel while their hang-over or still drunk (as drinking a lot of beer around a fire-place is one of the components of the celebration) other halves are resting next to them. Every year there is a huge campaign of not drinking and driving around this celebration, because it is really necessary.

But in my case, I was learning that if  one did not press the gas pedal that much, one did not have to brake as well. Just like in life, I though, if you do not go so fast, but are steady, you do not have to hit the brake nearly as much.