Editor’s Note: At the Table is an international exchange program that connects high school students in Philadelphia and Riga. The program, undertaken by the National Constitution Center in collaboration with the National History Museum of Latvia, will host “Sunday Suppers” in various communities around Philadelphia and Riga simultaneously. These conversations will culminate in a student developed service project and a collaborative documentary film about civic engagement. Our Latvian counterparts just had their first Sunday Supper, and a few reflect on the experience.
Artūrs Čurakovs: At first I thought that it would be weird and scary [to host a dinner], but everybody came! The dinner took place at Hotel Radi un draugi. It is a nice place in the heart of Riga. The table was huge, and we had no worries about the food! Communal eating is the first step of good communication! So we welcomed all our interviewees to the table and started to talk. For us it was also awesome to hear encouragement about our work, and our interest on the recent history of Latvia!
Agate Kaķerāne: In a way the dinner was even better than I expected! People were able to communicate; they were able to feel free to talk and express themselves. Probably some of the young ones weren’t able to connect more closely to those adults, who spoke about the Third Awakening which took place before we were born. It would have been better if we thought beforehand how to connect youth with adults, how to understand one another more.
Ieva Kince: The “At the table” project is a challenge for me. It makes it possible for me to communicate with unique people. The dinner was and still is an experience of a life time. The difference of opinions added a little spice to our conversations, and made everything even more interesting. It is nice to talk about themes which are so multifaceted, like the Third Awakening, the process of regaining national independence for Latvia, which occurred a bit more than twenty years ago. The food, the atmosphere, and all conversations we had gave me the feeling that intelligence and good humor in our society is not dead yet. Dinner is a great way to share ideas and opinions; actually, it should be used in most meetings!
Toms Dzenis: I suppose the most interesting part in our meeting was the conversation between our guests—how they gave opinions and comments about our videos. I realized that the information we usually study at school is mainly based on books and archival facts. The people who participated in important events do not always get a chance to tell their stories, and at the Sunday Supper, we were able to hear them! I was grateful for this evening; I could say that it was one of the most important and most interesting parts of our project so far.
Paula Popmane: Our Sunday Supper was an interesting and new experience. I’m very interested in history, but not really in politics, although the conversations at the table were exciting. There were a lot of people and everyone had their own point of view, their own opinion, and everyone saw the events of the Third Awakening and current Latvia differently. There weren’t huge fights, but some situations went so far that men punched their fists on the table and raised their voices! I think this is a truly great project. We’ve met new people, and learned a bunch of really useful information we can apply in our own lives!
Compiled by Ieva Kince, Riga Secondary School of Culture.
At the Table: Connecting Culture, Conversation and Service in Latvia and the U.S. was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with American Association of Museums. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State.