Friday, June 1, 2012

This is it!

First of all, a big big thank you to all our friends and fans and participants 
and just curious for making this time in Latvia so memorable. We will 
never be the same again! Following is Sam's conclusion and observations 
throughout the whole project. Enjoy!

It's been two weeks living away from my family home in Tartu with more
than half a dozen roommates, and so far, nobody's been murdered yet.
With this many people, it's easy to find someone who fits almost any
personality label. Geek to hipster, vegitarian or superchef. We've
been collected from four different countries across Europe to work
together on a massive two month project in which we'll be attempting
to raise awareness and participation in Latvia's biking culture by
giving new life to dead bikes.
With the help of several Latvian native mentors, broken bikes will be
repaired, or when that isn't possible, multiple bikes will be merged
in artistic ways into eye catching art, colloquially termed as freak
It's been a bit of a rocky start as we all try to find our place in
the city, as well as figure out exactly where we belong and how to fit
in with a dozen new strangers in unfamiliar surroundings. All of the
eight volenteers are lodged in a century old house with furnaces in
every room, where it's common to wake up to frigid air even during
spring. That may be partly due to the weather still not quite leaving
winter behind yet, it even snowed on Easter!
While we have had plenty of setbacks, finantial, chronological, and
culinary, we already know our goal, so it's only a matter of figuring
out how to get there. Without a map, our attempts at getting to it
have been slow, but as we get comfortable with the place, tools and
supplies finally arrive, the workshop is finally coming to life. With
seven weeks on the clock, some feel we'll be out of time all too soon,
while others feel like we have plenty of time to run the gamut of
projects. Maybe both sides are right.
After a month living in close quarters, things are settling in fairly
well. Most of the major issues have been resolved, or have at least
faded in importance as we became aclimatized to the difference from
our respective norms.
Nearly all the old bikes from past years' workshops have been given
the love and attention that any bike needs after a year in the garage
and then some. With them fixed up for action the project's
participants now have transportation of a sort, just casual usage of
one can turn as many heads as a full parade does.
With the Angar (warehouse) opened and cleaned out as best as the old
place can be, the events designed to attract the public started.
The Build-a-bike workshop was a success of sorts, attracting more than
a dozen Latvian participants to come and try to make a new freak bike.
Only 3 or 4 managed to be completed this year, less than half of
2011's event had, but no disasters marred the event, and most had a
great time.
Following this, each weekend there was an exhibition, each varying in
execution but not in content. Immediately following the Build-a-bike
workshop there was a freak bike parade, where all the functional freak
bikes travelled around Liepaja to get everyone's attention, followed
by an evening concert in the Angar with the bikes on display.
The next Saturday, there was a related event of a costumed bike parade
known as The Tweed Run, where people dressed up like classical British
people did. This parade ended near the Angar with many pub tents along
set up along the canal, and the freak bikes got to be ridden by anyone
brave enough to try them out while we shared the Angar's space with
museum pieces of antique sailing equipment and a real old fashioned
Penny-Farthing Bicycle.
On the Last weekend of May, the canal promanade hosted a local tent
market where hundreds of people came to browse the stalls of locally
produced products and food. Freakbikes ridden around the crowd
most of the afternoon, advertising the exhibit with freak bike rental.
It has been a unique experience for me to live for these two months in
Liepaja and while it wasn't all I hoped, it was an unexpected
experience which surpassed any other way I could have spent the last
months of Spring. After being here for this long, I'll be glad to go
home, but also I'll be more willing to leave the house again than I
was before.

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