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 bikes. 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.