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Shooting the real shit in a Latvian bunker

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Some years ago I went on a team building excursion to Latvia. Yes. Latvia. Home of Latvian stuff. We had been divided semi-randomly into groups; mixing different teams up so that each had a creative, someone from Client Services etc. And then we were given some money, two days off and told to bond, explore, think of ten ways to improve the company and bring back a gift. Our group decided to go to Latvia. Obviously.

To this day I have no idea why Latvia was our chosen destination; I don’t fare well in the cold. I need sun on my skin so I can raise a smile and not hate everybody. But to Latvia we went at half past arse in the morning, because that’s when the planes fly there.

On arrival Mattie, who had been carrying the video recorder thing, was immediately seized by armed guards convinced he was a one man plot to blow up all of Latvia. He had to delete the film he had already shot and eventually they let him, and us, go to the arrivals gate to be greeted by our driver. This man was lovely, though his name temporarily escapes me, and he was with us for the duration of our trip, transporting us from one place to another. He took us to our apartment and gave us the pin code we needed for entry. Our suspicions surrounding our safety were again alerted when we walked from the road into the square where our flat was. It’s like Saving Private Ryan! Mattie remarked, and tripped immediately on a rock. We approached the door and the keypad. The keypad had no numbers on it, which is unusual for a keypad and made entry something of a challenge. However we were team-building so, Krypton Factor-like, the smokers slunk away and we let someone else figure it out.

At this point I should thank Vic who organised basically everything for us. She was the one with the papers and the money and the clue about what to do next. She really was awesome. There is definitely no way we would even have got out of the aiport without her. Thanks Vic. You rock. Like a rockstar.

Eventually we got in. I have never been in a building like it: totally empty, wallpaper peeling off the walls, chipped paint showing more layers of chipped paint beneath, that cold, damp feeling as though it was a place that had never really ever been warm. And then to the apartment itself at the top of the building and behind a door that definitely didn’t shut properly and was held in by a rotting plank of wood.

I’d like to point out here that while I may, from time to time, be known for a willful use of hyperbole, I have typed not a single word of bullshit in this post. Not one. This is all exactly as it happened.

The flat was, basically, war-torn. Or, if not, just torn. There was very little furniture in the vast rooms, no cooking equipment, exposed light fittings and seemingly no system for heating the place. This was going to be tricky; this was going to require a *real* team. We dropped our bags and went immediately to our first activity. I had been very unsure about this one but had agreed to because, as I may have mentioned, I was part of a TEAM. We were going to shoot real live guns in a Latvian bunker. Yes. Me. Guns. Yes. For those who don’t know, I am roughly the height of a AK47 but by no means as sturdy. There’s no real reason to worry, I assured myself as we drove there: the shooting is preceeded by training; it says so on the website. And then I remembered I didn’t know if the place even had a website because I’d been involved in little to no organisation of the trip. I definitely didn’t know if there was training.

You’ll all be relieved to know that there *was* training for the shooting of a rifle (I think),  shotgun (I think) and an AK47: we were each given ear protectors and told roughly which way to aim. We were also informed that it was all ‘the real shit’. I had a vague feeling that I might need to *do* a real shit. But I did not.

Those who know how clumsy I can be may have stepped out of the room when I wandered down the bunker towards the guns and however many feet from the targets. I didn’t like that: targets shaped like people. I’m not into guns and killing, not at all. I march against shit like that. Anyway. I pointed. I fired. I was shot back almost to the end of the bunker by the force of it. I got back up, walked back down the bunker and did it all over again.

By the end of the session we were beginning to feel the love; there’s something about being in a bunker in Latvia with live ammunition that really makes you pull together. We went out and get pissed: should we go to the club with the sign that says no guns or roller skates on Fridays? It was Thursday. We gave it a wide berth.

I have only snap shots of memory from the rest of the trip: a simulated sky diving session; again my size meant all sorts of adjustments needed to be made to ensure I didn’t eventually end up in orbit ’round our lovely green planet, climbing towers, shooting film, hiding it from the very many armed guards of Latvia, walks in the woods and porridge made of cream with slices of butter floating in the top. I know. But it was so fucking cold there you had to eat all the time just to stay alive.

We bought many Russian dolls from very lovely people, we smoke hundreds of cheap cigarettes and drank this strange black drink from the region. We made up games to play in the crazy war-torn flat and we had a really good time. At the end, whatever my misgivings at the start, I was glad I went. More keen to try new things because what might kill you but doesn’t, definitely makes you stronger.

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Written by elikafm

January 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elika, Elika, Graeme Davidson, Christian Hunt, Matthew Baker and others. Matthew Baker said: Another great, interesting and off kilter post via @Elika Oh yes. I blogged about shooting guns. Um. http://bit.ly/axLshA […]


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