COMING OF AGE IN THE CITY. What Riga looks like to GENERATION Z kids. Pt.1

It's only about a month left before September eclipses the summer and school's back again. No doubt, it will affect any age or generation. Especially, if you are into studies again or if you don't like traffic jams, and even if you don't have any kids. Rarely though we ask the younger generation on their own insight about the city they dwell in and talk more about the parents' side. So, when waiting for the summer to end, CAPITAL R is launching an article series asking - how does Riga feel like to Generation Z? What places and spaces, and feelings the city brings to earthlings being born exclusively this millennium?
children, portraits, cartoon ,drawing, riga, capital r, 2019
First things first. We can't deliver every opinion of kids from different backgrounds in Riga. Even if we were following all the global trends, it would simply be impossible to cover all their variations in children's worldviews. What we can do is to choose the ones interested in the city and the ones similar to kids many parents are travelling to Riga with from elsewhere. So, let this article, consisting of two seminal interviews, then serve as a little city guide - for those accompanied by under-age fellow travellers and those Rigans looking for new vibes for their kids. A city guide being stocked up with other versions on the reality of Riga by GENERATION Z soon again.

GUSTAVS*, 11
I live in two places in Riga. One home is by the VEF bridge in the central part at my dad’s, and the other is in Pārdaugava next to the Stradiņš hospital at my mom’s. The biggest difference between both places is that the central part is more active, but I also like the quietness of Pārdaugava. I go to school in the centre on Brīvības street, where I am spending most of my time also because of after-school activities and hobby groups. Two I chose myself and they take place at the “Annas 2” creativity centre. One is car modelling, where we construct little cars, like 10x5 cm small, and then put them on a racing track; the other is theatre group. The third is computer programming group in a different place in the city centre my parents chose for me. For now I am not sure I want to practice the theatre, because the teacher I liked and who invited me there in the first place just left.
During my spare time in Riga I usually meet-up with other boys, my friends. We ride with scooters to the skate park at Barona street usually. I suggest other kids going to that playground, too, there’s a lot to do, but only when you are with someone else. Otherwise it gets boring. And it sometimes gets too hot, because there are no trees. We also go to movies at “Forum Cinemas”, because they always show the films we want to see. I also like riding my scooter on my own, but not far from home. Many of my friends don’t have any cycling licence, I think, so they ride scooters too. I have it, because I thought it could become useful someday, when I want to ride further on my own. I feel safe in Riga, also try to ride carefully on pavement and those few bike roads. But I wish there were many more of them, we don’t have bike roads in Riga at all.

I also wish there were more modern museums about Latvia and its history here. I really like the Riga Motor Museum, and how it’s upgraded after the reconstruction; it could be great to have more places like that where you can also touch and try out things. When in Pārdaugava we used to go to Āgenskalns market with my mum, but we haven’t gone lately after it was closed for renovation. I have heard about a really big sports centre with a skate park in Imanta just being opened, I would like to visit it too. Otherwise there is nothing to do in Pārdaugava, there is only one skate park I know, but it’s very small and ugly. I meet with other friends when on the other side of the river, we spend a lot more time outside. Where I live, there is a little backyard, but it usually gets full with cars, even in the driveway. So it's usually no chance we can play there.

When I want to get something tasty, I like going to “Muffins & More”, or “Stockpot” where they serve my most favourite meal - hummus and tubule; I don’t mind their spicier food in general. But I know these locations, because my dad works nearby. We don’t go to places in Riga that much, we usually leave the city for a longer or shorter trip together that I also like. My parents usually find out about places to go, but if I want to find something myself, I usually just google it or notice a poster somewhere, because I don’t own any Facebook or Instagram profile.

I have been to many towns and cities abroad and think that Riga seems to be a bit backward. Other places abroad feel more educated, more modern, faster. People also go to Old Town, but I don’t find it interesting – it’s only old houses, you know. But I don’t think that it’s bad, the backward thing, it just feels to me that elsewhere people think more about the city itself. I went to “Jaunā Teika” district the other day for a concert by my favourite Latvian rappers Ozols (the second one is Ansis), and it looked really weird when “Jaunā Teika” was very developed compared to the rest of Riga. But I also understand that nothing much is going on in this district apart from special events. By the way, both my parents don’t really like Ozols, and it drives my mum nuts, when I rap some of his lyrics, but I don’t mind!

MARTA, 16
I spend my life between two homes. One is in Vecāķi neighbourhood where my mum lives, and the other is in the centre on Skolas street where my dad lives. I can be at any place I want to be, like, it really depends on where my things are placed. Although I spend a lot of time at Vecāķi, I live more actively in the centre where my school is also located nearby. I will begin my 11th grade this autumn, although it will be spend in Spain where my AFS student-exchange application was accepted. Last summer I worked like a day job at a Rimi grocery store, but, because of the exchange and preparing for it at school and home, there was not so much free time this year. So I started volunteering at the Rīga Jūrmala music festival helping with the social media, like, distributing promo materials around hotels, tourism info centres. Now I know I would never work at the Rimi store again packing goods, but I really liked volunteering for the festival, like, they also had a very beautiful office and very cool staff. Can’t imagine myself, at least now, having a work schedule or sitting, like, somewhere all day from 9 to 5. I enjoyed when I was able to work, like, from home sometimes for the festival, and I need to say thanks to my dad’s ex-colleague for helping me finding this place.
After school I usually go to some nearby cafés with my friends, like, if there are no other plans or I don’t need to be anywhere. We used to visit the closest “Caffeine” a lot when it was sunny and warm, like, on autumn or spring on their terrace. The coffee was relatively cheap, I also like to drink it almost every day. But then there were too many “Caffeines”, like, opened on almost every corner, and I regret going there a bit now, because we could’ve visited something new, like, more unique and more private every time. When the weather got worse and cold and we couldn’t sit outside, me and my friends visited Ausmiņa Kebabs a lot. But our plans really depend on whether it’s school or summer break, or, how much money we have – either from parents or from small jobs. My budget consists of, like, around 5 euros per day, but some of my friends have even up to four times more. I don’t mind, but sometimes don’t understand where do they put their money.

Now I really enjoy “Robert’s Books” – it’s nearby my home; this café / book store also has, like, a shadowy terrace and superb, artistic atmosphere away from the street noise. Actually I really enjoy, like, snug places at where to sink into comfortable seats, relax and talk; I can also be there only by myself. Nowadays, when on Wednesday, me and my friends, we try to meet up at Tallinas street creative quarter. I really enjoy the place and the atmosphere, it is, like, much better than Piena kvartāls nearby, it is more relaxed. A lot of things happen there, you can eat and stay out for longer at night, and there are also many people I know, but don’t meet casually. Sometimes I have a drink or two, but don’t really like it that much. Actually, I also like to go to Avotu Ezītis, it’s not that close from my home, but it’s a lovely place.

When in Vecāķi, I usually hop off the train and go directly home without spending much time around the neighbourhood. If on a special occasion, we go to “Cafe del Mar” with mum. It has a beautiful roof terrace where you can gaze at the sea from atop. It’s funny when you live by the beach, but seldom actually visit it, although it’s pretty. But I really enjoy strolling through the forest in Vecāķi, it’s more beautiful than anywhere else. When back in downtown, we sometimes go to a restaurant called Rossini with my family. Mostly for the first day of school, but I also enjoy going there, like, on my birthday for a couple of years now.

For almost half a year I had Spanish lessons twice per week on evenings for my exchange. It was the only thing to do outside school, but before that I used to go to TRX suspension training at Olympic Sports Centre nearby. Decided to practice myself, the schedule was very comfortable, and I didn’t find it terrifying at all! Many of my friends are actually playing basketball, or they’re even more into track and field athletics. I think the latter is some kind of a trendy thing, but I also don’t have too big of a commitment to join. I think I’m slightly lazy sometimes; I also wish I could visit more unexplored places, like, even close to school or home. They are so many in Riga now, not like a new one every day, like, I still haven’t visited “Bāka” or “M50”, although I pass them by many times when on my way somewhere – like, to the Spanish or drawing lessons back in the day.

There are a few things I don’t like about Riga. One is, like, the massive Soviet block buildings. I think they are, like, ugly and I also don’t feel safe around them. The other thing I dislike are public buses, when there are many old ladies that are, like, noisy and sometimes get really physical; that is the reason the train is much better, more quiet and also cleaner with less weird passengers. The last, but not least is when there are some, like, men on streets that dare groping. It’s not like in big cities, when you get catcalled super often, and groping has happened only few times to me, but it’s still extremely uncomfortable. Hope this gets sorted out in the future somehow.

One more thing I wish to change in the city is to do more recycling. For example, we don’t recycle at our school at all. Also to have more bio shops, for example “Bio Bio” or think more about zero waste. There are many “zero waste” friendly stores in Riga now, and I really want to visit “Burka” or “Turza” one day; wish we could think about this more. There are a lot of posts on social media that motivate recycling, many of my friends also agree, but a lot of them are, like, only talking and doing nothing. But it’s bad that we pollute oceans. Some say it’s far away, it does not affect Latvia, but if we let it grow, the pollution will reach us eventually. What then?



* A permission of a parent was obtained before the child was approached for an interview.

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