Latvia – The Low Down Adventure
Why Latvia? Why not. It’s part of the world we haven’t tapped yet, and after reading about the country being largely covered by forests…I kinda assumed that Latvia would have a shit ton of factories bustin’ out notepads and pencils. I was dead wrong. Latvia was the ultimate test. A language that I couldn’t fake my way through, a culture where shop owners don’t understand browsing, and learning very quickly that Latvia isn’t a country filled of factories bustin’ out the goods we need for our STMT Kits.
No matter. I’ve never left a sourcing trip empty handed, and Latvia wasn’t gonna break me. We go from Point A to Point B and along the journey we gather the goods, experience a new culture—and often the journey is not a simple, straight line. Shit breaks, detours arise, but ultimately magic happens.
Three ten-hour days of walking up and down every street in Riga and all I could think was, I wanna fine line. I wanna know where the goods be. Why couldn’t we even find a small mom-and-pop shop carrying a little bit of everything? My collection of goods so far—notebooks from Lithuania, highlighters from Italy, and pencils from Germany. I had yet to hi-five somebody.
On the fourth day, the front desk gal called a few shops that we thought might have the goods we wanted. One long bus ride to an industrial park area, swearing up and down that we were lost AGAIN, and then we found the store. We probably should of walked to the end of the busy street to use the cross walk, but our excitement couldn’t hold us back. Ran across the street and once we entered the store – hi-five! We found us the goods!
A quick tour of the shop and discovered most of the items were not made in Latvia. Second time around, picking up every single item, I found a small stash of notebooks. Partially hidden and left to be forgotten. The notebooks felt old, like leftovers from another era that nobody wanted. Love that the product information is rubber stamped on the back. The pages are yellowing and the pale green covers a bit weathered, but all the ageing makes me love the notebooks even more.
I’ve used every paper good from the STMT Kits for work – daily to-do list, things to remember, information for the next sourcing trip, but these notebooks make me wanna sit down with a cup of tea and write about my past, about my family, so that someday someone can discover some history about my family. I rushed to the front desk and asked if they had more. Score! We bought the entire remaining stash.
Next we found the writing instrument. There’s a big ecofriendly/recycling movement in Latvia, and it made sense that the only pencils we found from a Latvian company came in a natural finish. They totally feel current yet they perfectly match the standard-issue notebooks. Selected stacks of notecards for the mystery item. Different from anything else we’ve included and love that each stack is secured with a paper band with the product info. Practical, no fuss, as basic as it comes.
All the goods in the STMT X Latvia Kit have a utilitarian quality about them. Like there is no room to have fun with the goods and that they only serve a functional purpose. But for me when I look at the items—no markings, not covered in marketing gimmicks—all the goods feel like they are begging to be dressed up, to personalize them, to really own them. Makes me wanna bust out my pack of divider tabs from the Japan Kit and hook the notebook up. I want to carve my initials and the date of our sourcing trip on the pencil barrels. I want to write funny greetings and phrases on the notecards in various languages I don’t speak. Love the utilitarian, standard issue feel…like the goods be remnants of the Soviet era. Collecting dust, forgotten on the shelves, but loved by us.