LSL Weekend reflections from Alex Anthony Cortes-Ose

I grew up in a unique mix of Mexican and Latvian culture, and the diverse experiences in my life have led me to discover and fall in love with the Latvian side of my heritage, especially after visiting my mother’s home country and staying in the heart of Riga a year ago. My mom and I joined Ņujorkas latviešu koris in January, and I was amazed by the beautiful Latvian songs and people. But whenever I opened my songbook, turned to the page everyone else was on, and opened my mouth to sing, I didn’t know what I was saying.

As soon as the opportunity came to participate in the LSL Weekend at Rota Lodge, I
was excited to finally get the chance to kickstart my Latvian language learning journey. When I arrived to the house on that first rainy Friday night after driving through the scary, tall mountains and endless forest, I instantly felt a sense of belonging and comfort. The smell of Latvian food lingered in the air, and I was greeted by friendly people with smiling faces. After fun Latvian language icebreakers and meeting some of the other learners, I was excited to start lessons the
next day.

What followed was a great weekend full of singing, dancing, delicious meals, tongue
twisters, a scavenger hunt that sent everyone running around the house and campsite, and fantastic lessons. Laura, Kiki, Andra, and all of the staff members made every moment special, and I still can’t believe just how much we were able to learn in only a couple of days.

Other than a long list of random words like suns, Lāčplēsis, zīlīte, piens, and debesis,
acquired from listening to tautasdziesmas, Radio Skonto, and Līvi, I had no practical prior knowledge of the language. In the beginner group we covered all sorts of topics from pronouncing the alphabet, counting up to one thousand, and important phrases and nouns to creating our own full introductory dialogs:

Sveiki! Ka tevi sauc?
Mani sauc Antonijs! Ka tev iet?
Es esmu students Kolumbijas Universitātē, un es dzīvoju Ņujorkas pilsētā. Man ir balts suns, un dvīņu māsa Ešlija, un man patīk spēlēt ģitāru.
Jauki iepazīties!

My next big Latvian adventure will be to sing in Toronto Dziesmu Svētki and I will
continue to learn Latviešu valoda.

-Alex Anthony Cortes-Ose

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