Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bathing.. European style - Paige from APU

FALL 2011
Saunas have been one of the most amazing experiences of my time here in Europe.

So there are two types of saunas I've been to. A Russian Banya, and a Hamman which is Turkish. I can't say I like either one specifically better. They are both different enough to be in two separate categories alone.

Let's start with the Banya, shall we? In a Banya you walk into a locker room, put on the appropriate attire, set your belongings in a locker and move forward. The first room you enter is a large shower room with benches all around. You bathe, get used to the temperature relax, and take your time. When you are good and ready you move onto the sauna room. This room is piping hot, and you drip out all the toxins you could imagine. While entering this room you bring with you a bundle of birch leaves that have been soaked in water. With these leaves you hit yourself, or whoever you're with. Sometimes the older women that are in the sauna like to take over and show the younger women how it's done (kinda like an initiation type of thing), so they hit you to show you how it is supposed to be done. That happened to me last time I was there, I was so excited! The purpose of these leaves is to open your pores. When you factor in the sweating, the temperature, the hitting with leaves I guess it makes sense. So you basically go in an out of the sauna as many times as you want until you're done. Then you bathe again and you leave. One sauna I went to had an extremely cold pool to jump into once you've rinsed after exiting the hot sauna room, but the one in Klaipeda doesn't have that feature. So that's a Banya for you. It's a wonderful experience, and I think all people should try it at least once in their life.

Now moving onto the Hammam. A Hammam is a Turkish bathhouse, and differs from the Russian tradition enough that it is a while different experience. So you walk in, pay for yourself and purchase a grommage ticket. Then disrobe into the proper attire whatever that may be. So the first room is a massage room, everyone is getting a massage in the same room so if you're not used to that kind of environment it takes a little getting used to. Then you walk into the next room that is where the grommage happens. In this room you grab a bucket and walk onto the next room. This room is all marble with large marble benches that fit multiple people, and a large circular marble platform that fits even more people. This is the sauna room, the temperature is warm and pretty tolerable. In this room people scrub, bathe, stretch, rest, and relax. It is wonderful. The last room is the warmest of the sauna rooms, which also has a cold water pool to dip into. Once you feel you've been sauna'd out you wait in line for the grommage table. Grommage is where a woman uses a special exfoliating glove to rub off all the dirty and dead skin. Walking away from that table you feel like a baby's bottom. It is heavenly. There is also something humbling (I don't like that word but I couldn't think of a better one) about letting a stranger wash you in front of a group of women (I guess you could say that parallels the Bible a bit).

I can't wait to be home, and I can't wait to share Europe with home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Appreciations - Anders from Bethel

FALL 2011
I would never have thought that I would ever get used to riding the public bus to get from point A to point B.  Indeed, even walking everywhere, even to extreme distances, was not something that I was necessarily focused on upon deciding to study in Lithuania.  But, as it turns out, things work out in interesting ways, and I feel that the things you least expect can often times have a greater impact than those things that you'd prepared to experience.

Now, I have to grapple with the fact that going home means paying for gas and driving a car to get anywhere that I need to go.  I can hear my wallet crying out in despair already...  I wish that moving about back home was as convenient as it has been while being here in Lithuania.

True, there is a lot more independence and freedom to go places at a whim when you have your own car, but I am hoping that experiencing, not only a more efficient public transportation system, but also many other things in a European vein will allow me to branch out within my own culture and society when I get back.  Being forced to cook all of my own meals is another area that I am looking forward to furthering once I get back in a land where I can actually understand the name of everything in the grocery store.

It is very interesting indeed to note all of these new appreciations that have come about since being here, and it's definitely no surprise that just once you get used to them, you realize that it is going to be very difficult to leave them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beach, ICF, Ice Cream and Potter Therapy - Shelby from Eastern

FALL 2011
Finals week. Most awful week of the year. Not only because of all the stupid exams, but because it's my last 5 days in Lithuania.  I find myself trying to stay busy and doing everything except study and pack.
Yesterday, a friend and I took a trip to the beach to look for sea glass. The waves were crazy and it was a really windy day.

It was the first day that the sun had been up in a while.  There was no snow, hail, or rain either! It was beautiful.

Some graffiti on the wall which was the walkways to the beach
All my sea glass
Later that day, we went to our last ICF service where they even had a goodbye meal for the Study Abroads and a few other people that were leaving.

Poor scrambled smiley that I always see on the way back from church
After church, some friends and I stopped at the store to buy some ice cream (it comes in tubes here) and we went back to my room to watch the first Harry Potter movie, eat ice cream, and NOT study.  It was a great night.
My friend Iulia went to Palanga and found this amber Hedgehog and got it for me! LOVE it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

One more week - Diana from Cornerstone

FALL 2011
I am the kind of person who can’t wait to pack for a trip. My mom was always the one who would start packing five days before we left for a few days. My dad was the one who would start packing five minutes before bed the night before leaving, whether it was a two-day trip or a week-long trip. I tend to pack for weeks in advance. Not out of high-blood pressure or anxiety, I just love being ready to go. I hate that time between loads of laundry when you don’t want to wash all your clothes until you can put a few more days clothes in to make it worthwhile so you can pack. I love to think about the things I need to bring, and I love to pack it all in, find a way to make more room, take it all out and pack again. Luckily, I have refrained from doing that for my return trip home. Besides the fact that our dorms would not accommodate a loosely and wide-spread packed suitcase, I know it would simply make me more anxious to leave. I am in this tight place where I want to be home and be done with school work and see my wonderful family again, and I also can’t believe I’m leaving, and at times think, maybe if I throw a temper tantrum they won’t make me leave. In writing a reflection paper for our study abroad Cross-cultural Seminar class, I realized how many things I have learned, but have no words for, and I somehow feel that going home will make it even less likely to find the words. But without going home, I wouldn’t even realize all the things I’ve learned. So I want both things – Lithuania and Wisconsin. International community and diverse ethnic community. This is the curse and the blessing of Study Abroad Lithuania – it steals your heart and won’t give it back.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Your Everyday Trip to London - Anders from Bethel

FALL 2011
When most people think about London, they probably think about unflinching palace guards, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and maybe red phone booths.  But, just as with every other city out there, there is much more to a city or a country than what tourist attractions have to offer.  

Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to the world-famous city to visit a friend of mine from Bethel.  Apart from the great times we had moseying around the winding streets of this old city, there were several happenstances that created a more layered and culturally relevant experience than I could have asked for.  Most of this came from the very fortunate opportunity I had to witness a small piece of local London theatre.

I must admit that I wasn't very concerned with the issues that touch London to the heart, but to use the cliché, my eyes were soon opened after witnessing the drama The Westbridge.  The show centered around an incident of rape that occurred in a not-so-nice neighborhood in London.  Most of the characters are multi-racial and the show seemed to explore the diverse and intricate ties that bound them all together.  What made this show interesting, however, was that the audience sat in the middle with the stage all around.  Chairs faced randomly in all directions, and as the action played out, one really felt like they were there with the characters, feeling what they felt.  As if the topic at hand were not intense enough, the nature of the performance did wonders for drawing the audience further and further into the flawless performance.

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and this definitely came through in the show.  Whether they are black or white, Pakistani or English, people gather from all over to live life in this great city.  Conflict is inevitable, and while many would shy away from such an uncomfortable subject, it was brought right into the forefront of everyone's mind in the audience that night.  It also helped to make me notice more when I was out and about in the city.  Even riding on the London Underground, it was incredibly easy to see people from all different races and nationalities represented.  Clearly there are numerous tensions that arise in a melting pot like that, and I am incredibly blessed and thankful to have had such an experience that could help me to take what would seem to be a routine tourist visit and turn it into something culturally relevant that would help me understand the true nature of such an incredible city as London.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Persil and Apples and Coffee and Tea - Hannah from Gordon

1. Timtammin in Lietuva!
2. Matching matching mittens cubed
3. Cards which speak for themselves
4. T and D actually being friends!
5. A blurry but joyful picture of A, D, and I
(these girls whom I love so much)

My time in Lithuania is drawing to a close. Each time I am in the kitchen, stirring my medley of vegetables, or scrounging through my cupboard looking for the pepper, I realize just how much I will miss this place.

I wrote this in an email to a dear friend this past week, and am pasting it here as I can find no better way to express my thoughts about leaving:

As I make dinner, I realize that I am going to miss reading "Origan" and "Persil" on my spices, and as I walk through the Old Town and stop on the bridge to watch the sky turn bright pink with the black trees silhouetted against it, I realize that I may never again see the water I am now looking into, nor the person I am standing next to, nor the boy I passed on the street.
I find it so interesting how much my heart has changed in these past few months, and so much more inspiring how faithful and constant my Heavenly Father is. He has been the same through all of the tears and laughter, and truly, He has turned my darkness into light (Ps.18:28). However sad I am though, moments like these become all the more real, special, and meaningful.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lithuanians - World‘s Latin American Dancing Champions


Lithuania is a country where people love dancing. And dance well. It was proven yesterday.
Klaipėda‘s “Žuvėdra” dancers took first place in the World‘s Latin American Dancing Championship. "Žuvėdra" dancers have become the world’s champions for the seventh time. They won the World Cup in 1999, every year from 2002 to 2005 and 2008.

Russia’s team “Vera” took the silver medal and the bronze was given to the "TSZ Aachen-TSC Duesseldorf Rot-Weiss" (Germany) dancers. The championship took place in Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania. It is the fourth time that the World’s Latin American Dancing Championship has been organized in Lithuania. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tinginys - Diana from Cornerstone

My boyfriend had his birthday today. I got to skype him to wish him a happy day. I also made him a birthday cake. He didn't get to eat it. But I wanted to show him I was celebrating his birthday. Also, I wanted to make a cake. I made this cake my roommate taught me to make. It's a traditional Lithuanian cake called tinginys, which means lazy bones. It's called that because it is very simple and easy to make. But it is to die for. {As in delicious.} After you put all the ingredients together, you have to let it sit in the fridge overnight so it hardens, then you have a delicious cake in the morning!

But who wants a cake in the morning? And who wants to wait so long after toiling to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor? I would not answer "me!" to either of those questions. Neither would my roommates, who would include that they would not want to wait so long after Diana toils to enjoy the fruits of Diana's labor. So, after waiting only until choir practice was over, we dug prematurely into the tinginys with our spoons. And now it is all gone.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Exodus 15 - Shelby from Eastern

This happened at the end of October, and I'm just going to talk about it now.  I had the opportunity to open for a band from Poland called Exodus 15.  This was an awesome opportunity!  Since I'm part of the Chapel Worship Band, we were told that this band was coming and we were going to open for them.  The only issue is, we have about 10 singers who switch out on different weeks.  We only needed 2 singers, so I figured I wouldn't be singing.  Turns out I was chosen to sing! The concert had a decent amount of people at it (and by decent, I mean most of the auditorium was filled).  We got to hangout with the band earlier in the day and had dinner with them as well.  It was interesting to talk to this band that had been together for about 6 years and started out as a camp band.  They sand a few songs in Polish, but most songs were in English.  It was a great time to worship with friends and I loved it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Lithuania - Diana from Cornerstone

 Last night, around 10, Natalie, Kate and I started making pies. Pumpkin pie and apple pie. I had never made pie before, and I didn’t believe I could do it – it seemed so advanced! But my English professor had given me an Apple Pie recipie JUST the day before, and it was so simple. I even made a lattice for the top!

Then today, after class I took at 10 am, I took a quick nap to gather up energy for the rest of the day, as I made dough from scratch to make cresant rolls, and then I made corn, did laundry, at it was time for dinner. But I wasn’t the only one in the kitchen when I was making dough! The other study abroads were quite busy. Jared had bought a turkey, a duck, and a chicken for their dinner of about 30 people. We had a turkey for a smaller group of us who wanted to share with our roomates who had never had Thanksgiving before.

Finally, we brought together our mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, corn, beans, gravy, pies, ice cream and all. Without our families around, the food seemed extra meaningful as we went around and had the Americans share our family traditions for the holiday, and each shared something we were grateful for. I think it was the first Thanksgiving away from home for a few of us, including me, so it was quite surreal to see my family on skype all together and being so far away. But it was such a unique experience to be able to share something unique to our American culture with these friends whose culture we’ve been sharing in for the past three and a half months.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On the Emerald Isle - Anders from Bethel


It was definitely a strange feeling to hear the English language spoken upon arriving in the Dublin airport.  While it has been fine adjusting to the language barrier here in Lithuania, it was definitely a refreshing change.  And let's not forget just how soothing that charming Irish accent can be.

Other than that, Ireland was warmer than our Baltic home, and that was a rather welcome change of pace too.  We wasted no time upon arriving and quickly dropped stuff in our hostel room to go out and explore.  First on the list was to get some food in our bellies.

We walked around the famous Temple Bar area for a while, but our fortunes led us to a little place called Harry Lemon's before we knew it.  This place offered us the best first night experience that we had ever had. Not only were we able to satisfy our hunger, but we were able to talk to one of the owners of the place.  He convinced us to try his family recipe of Irish Coddle (a sort of stew), and some fresh baked brown bread.  It was tasty beyond what words can express.  

After a few more days of exploring Dublin, we ventured out to the West coast of Ireland, which is far more traditional and rural.  It was great to get out of the city, even though Dublin has a very quaint feel to it.  I was floored by the wonderful green expanse that stretched out before us.  We took a day trip to a family's farm just outside Galway in some foothills known as The Burren.  There was an absolutely astounding bleak beauty about the place.

As if that wasn't enough, we then were taken to the magnificent Cliffs of Moher.  At more than 600 feet above the ocean below, it was quite a sight to see (especially when you walked right up to the edge).  We were blessed with beautiful weather that we were told was quite a rarity.  Either way, being out and seeing the sights of this wonderful place warmed my heart.  I wouldn't be surprised if I find myself venturing back to the beautiful Emerald Isle in the future.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movies in the Beatles - Kim from Messiah

There is nothing like getting a group of friends together and going to the movies! This past weekend a group of us went to go see The Adventures of Tin Tin, an animated film about a boy, his dog and a ship. At least i think? See we expected the film to be either in Lithuanian with English subtitles or English with Lithuanian subtitles. Well, we quickly realize that is not the case for animated movies. We paid good litas for this film so we sat through 107 minutes of action packed Lithuanian fun! Although my Lithuanian class could not have prepared me for this and all I got out of the film was that I wanted Tin Tin's dog, I enjoyed every minute of it! And to finish our night off, we were given a free concert by "the Klaipeda man". When traveling on the city buses, you meet some interesting people but none have ever sung to me. I will never be able to listen to the Beatles' Yellow Submarine without smiling, thinking of the old man who serenaded 7 students with a Beatles song.  Just goes to show that even as the end of the semester is near there is still so much to see and experience.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Talent Night - Diana from Cornerstone

A few weeks ago, there were signs up around campus advertising the need for people to participate in the talent show. I don't know what it is, but I LOVE talent shows. I love to watch them to see the unique things that people can do, or the cool ways that people come up with to perform songs. I also enjoy being in them. So I asked my friend Hannah, plays the Ukelele really well, and sings even better, if she would sing a song with me. So we signed up.
It was such a fun thing to practice with Hannah. We got together a few times to put our song together, and we would find ourselves talking about so many other things as well. I learned a lot from her laid back personality and fun-loving laughter. She even taught me a song she wrote, and we would sing it together. It was SO much fun.
So, last night, Talent Night came along, and we performed our song by Sufjan Stevens. We had fun singing, and watching all the other acts as well! Though all the acts were musical, they were still really diverse. It was cool to see so many fearless performers up on stage. When it came to the end of the show, they were telling the winners, they announced third place, and the winners came up and were presented with... PIZZA! I looked at Hannah. Hannah looked at me. All of a sudden, we wanted to win! Up until that point, I didn't even know it was a competition. And then a competitive spirit rose up inside of me! And guess what -- we got second place! when they announced it, Hannah and I jumped up and RAN onstage, waiting to get off again with the pizza so we could whip it open. And we did. We had a piece then and there, then took  the rest back to her lounge and we got to share our victory with our pizza-loving friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

it's a moving picture, a picture that moves - Hannah from Gordon

My friend and fellow G-student, HB, has been recording moments I usually freeze with my lens.
I thought it'd be fun to show you some of my happenings "in motion"
...especially since I never posted any photos from my trips to Riga and Tallin.
Oh well...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Extra Hour - Diana from Cornerstone

Today I accidently went an hour early to church -- I guess my lessons in reading clocks in third grade did not really pay off. But it turned out to be a really good thing because I got to discover a nice place for walking. Close to where the church meets, I found a little valley of sorts with an offshoot of the river and an island in the middle. It was so beautiful to walk around the island and cross the pretty bridge that led to and from it. Also on my walk, I discovered a book sitting on the shore. It looked rather lonely and abandoned, so I picked it up. It is in the syrillic alphabet. I looked around, and it didn't look like anyone was in a rush to get back to their book they had left behind. So, moral or not, I took the book.
When I got back home after church, my roommate from Ukraine, who is fluent in Russian, told me it was a book that was praising people who defended the USSR. She translated a bit for me, and it was very red. I decided that even if I ever become fluent in Russian, it didn't sound like the kind of thing I would really enjoy reading. So instead, I tried to think of what I could do with it. I decided to make it into my scrapbook of my trip. So now I am starting to go through all the brochures and ticket stubs from all the places I've been since I've been here -- Tallinn, Riga, Stockholm, Klaipeda, Vilnius, Moscow, St. Petersburg... So many beautiful places! It is fun to go back and remember my adventures and realize I still have time to create more!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Concert - Anders from Bethel

One thing that I gotta say is pretty cool about LCC is that they have some great opportunities to see events and things on campus.  For example, when I saw in the little event email that there just so happened to be a concert opportunity in the main auditorium, I couldn't help but take a gander to see who was going to be there.  I saw that it was a solo piano artist who would be playing some great pieces from all the great composers.  I was so there.

When I finally did show up, I must say that I wasn't too surprised that there were only about ten people in the whole auditorium.  Clearly classical isn't everyone's cup o' tea.  I guess it would be an almost private event.  Sweet.  The only problem that soon became clear, however, was that this guy did not speak a word of English.  Needless to say, that was a bit of a bummer, but it turned out alright because it forced me to listen extra intently to what he said when introducing the pieces.  If I was lucky, I caught the name of a composer that I recognized.  It was alright, though, because in the end, it's the music that matters and the language barrier would dissolve.  No problem.

Except there was a problem...  Just as soon as he sailed into the heart of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, a shrill cry pierced through to my very soul.  One of the sustain pedals was squeaking and squawking like an old automobile horn.  Wonderful.  Maybe it will go away?  It didn't.  Right when he would get to the most beautifully quiet moment of any piece, it was as if someone were scraping their fingernails across a chalkboard.

Thankfully, however, the pianist was very talented indeed, and I soon forgot all about the squeaky pedal in all its frustrating shenanigans.  As one piece glided into another, I was struck at several moments by the talent of this musician before us.  In the end, it was a rather enjoyable time.  I just wish I had had a can of WD-40...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Russia - Diana from Cornerstone

There is not another place I have ever been that is like what I saw in Russia. It is hard to imagine getting to a point where I could understand the mindset of those who grew up in Moscow or St. Petersburg because they are so based in the rich and intricate history which is so unique.

Moscow was very crowded and big-city-ish. (Which, it obviously is a big city!) I am glad that All of my time there was spent with other people. Listening to my friends Hannah and Paige, who were late to the hostel when we needed to leave for Petersburg made me so grateful that I was not lost on my own in that huge city!! If I ever was left on my own there, I would be at a loss for where to go or what to do.

In St. Petersburg, however, I was very comfortable to take a walk by myself when no one else wanted to see what I wanted to. It was so wonderful when I found in a guide book at the hostel a self-guided “Crime and Punishment Walking Tour.” So the next day during free time, I went to a side of the town that I think few people from our group got a chance to go to. And, the day after that, I got to go see Dostoevsky’s last flat which had been turned into a museum. It was a really good think to have free time to check out what I may not have seen if every moment of every day was planned out.

For me it was actually surreal to have the free time – it gave me a moment when I consciously thought to myself, “I’m growing up!” It was a stark contrast to my trip to Europe my sophomore year of high school when we had a strict schedule and we all had to be in the same room at each museum and we had to make sure everyone was accounted for before moving on to the next room.

One thing that was confusing (and beautiful) was the church service at Kazan Cathedral. I think it helped to drive home the realization that there are so many ways to live, and my way would appear utterly strange to the people here if they were to visit my church service or my city.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Visiting the Motherland - Anders from Bethel

Man, Russia!  You could say that I've been excited about this trip for a LONG time, and I was not let down one bit.  All of us study abroad students left a little over a week ago to begin our adventure into Russia.  The idea of taking an overnight train to get there was at first an exciting idea, and while we did have a lot of fun, it was very tiring for us.  And as if that wasn't enough, we hit the ground running to see the sights.

I think I will forever remember the moment when we visited The Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow.  As we walked in front of the wall, it towered over us in all of its red glory.  Rounding the corner to the break in the wall, I could just barely see the top of the famous icon of Saint Basil's Cathedral.  It took my breath away.  As we walked further and further up the sloped entrance to the square, Saint Basil's appeared in all of its multi-colored splendor.  It was at this moment that it really hit me.  Man, I'm in Russia!

After that moment in the Red Square, there were many other great times that we had as we explored Moscow and Saint Petersburg.  The train ride up to Saint Petersburg was great and soon we were walking around the city.  It was very striking how different Saint Petersburg was from Moscow.  Though, Moscow is older by far, Saint Petersburg had a more historical feel to it.  And while everything in Moscow is centered on The Kremlin, Saint Petersburg had the feel of a very old western European city.  The streets are more straight and the beauty of the old architecture is magnified by the river that runs throughout the city.

All in all, it was awesome to visit both of these very historical cities.  While both offered their own uniqueness, everything felt decidedly Russian.  Beautiful cathedrals abounded in both cities, and there is nothing like hearing the beautiful voices of a choir filling up the immense space for a traditional orthodox church service.

I hope I can go back.  Soon.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What do you know about Lithuania?

Get to know more about Lithuania. This video tells and shows some bits of the country. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I love Moscow! - Diana from Cornerstone

Today we will be taking the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. It seems like we could spend years and years in Moscow alone just to begin to get a taste of what it's really like. Three days would never be enough to understand any town, least of all the legendary city of Moscow. It is so bizarre to have that incredible feeling of being in the square where so many things have happened.

When we got here Saturday morning after taking the night train from Riga, we went to the Red Square and pretty much spent most of the afternoon around there. That night we went to the circus! What a great show. It was so fun. I felt like a little kid because all the silliest things can get you laughing so hard! The last act was a walrus, which was such an interesting animal! I'm not sure if I had ever seen one before.

Yesterday, we walked around town, toured St. Basil's cathedral, and then spent all that was left of our summer earnings at the souvenir market!

Today we visited Lenin in his mausoleum. It was one of the strangest things I've ever done.

Then we split up to visit two different museums. Some people went to a museum with old religious icons. I went with about half of our group to a museum with late 19th century and 20th century art. It was really thought-provoking. It is always fascinating to me how modern art and older portraits or religious paintings can all be classified as Art -- that there is something outside of the paintings that connects them all together.

Well, tonight we will arrive in St. Petersburg. I have been re-reading Crime and Punishment -- my favorite novel -- to get into the mood for St. Petersburg. I am so curious to explore!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Russia Russia Russia - Diana from Cornerstone

Can it be? Is it true? In 24 hours, I will be lining up to get on a bus which will take me, and my fellow study abroad students, to Riga, where we will find a train which will take us to ... Russia! I cannot believe this opportunity. I keep thinking about how unique this opportunity is. I think I may only know a handful of people from back home who have set foot in Russia. In our cross-cultural seminar, we talked about a lot of the different things we would experience culturally while in Russia. We also talked about bargaining -- I'm so excited and VERY nervous to try out using my Russian numbers which I've been practicing to bargain in the market! We have so many wonderful things on the agenda -- the Ballet, the sauna, museums, the Moscow metro. I think it will be a stretching experience because the culture is  so different from home, and even from LCC and Lithuanian culture. I am so excited to learn about Russia, about the world, and about myself from this unique opportunity to enter into a world so unlike my usual comfort zone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Falling in Love with Riga - Anders from Bethel

So, what’s great about this whole studying abroad business, and just being in the Baltic countries in general, is that there is no shortage of beauty to be found.  Seriously.

A couple of friends and I headed up to Riga, Latvia this weekend (a mere four to five hour bus ride away) to see Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Sleeping Beauty.  As you may have seen from my previous post, I am in love with Tchaikovsky, but that is not what I’m going to focus on here.

We arrived in Riga and settled into our hostel a bit before heading out to see the city.  It was a rather rainy and dreary day, which would probably seem like it put a damper on our spirits, but the opposite was true.  As if by some divine intervention, the fall colors seemed like they were magnified by the subtleness of the cloudy light.  We walked around the many (MANY) parks of Riga, and I was consistently astounded by the beauty of nature to be found all around us.  And we certainly weren’t the only ones out enjoying the colors.  The native Latvians clearly understand what a true treasure they have in the nature around them, and they were out gazing at it just as we were.

Fall is my favorite season back home in Minnesota, and we have beautiful fall colors that would seem to be unrivaled.  After experiencing the beauty of a magnificent Baltic fall, I may have to rethink Minnesota’s placement in the hierarchy of my autumnal beauty list…

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Keep Your Stick on the Ice… or should I say Floor - Drew from Taylor

A dream has come true for one of the study-abroad’s this semester. His dream of playing hockey in Europe has become a reality… of sorts.  Every Wednesday night, a group of students and faculty face-off for a night of fun and adrenaline. That’s right. It’s hockey night in Lithuania!

Ice hockey has been my favorite sport as long as I can remember, growing up in the foothills of Colorado. The cold weather was always a good sign. The ponds froze over, the snow fell, and we laced up our skates. My brother played goalie, while I played forward and defense. It is truly a favorite pastime in our house, as I grew up watching players from all over the world play for my team the Colorado Avalanche.

So, naturally sports have always been important to me. When I arrived, I really had no idea LCC had such great sports programs. People play all the time. It’s even easier than playing intramurals. You don’t have to sign up. You just have to show up. I have found it’s a great way to really hang out with my friends and meet new people. Think of it this way, you have a good time, get a workout, and basically have an excuse to get out of the room. What is better than that? The teams are usually split up into faculty vs. students, which is of course, the dream game of every student after a tough week of classes.

The entire day during classes it’s all I can think about. Whenever I pass a player I shout, “see ya at 8!” We all meet in the gym and split off into teams sometimes rotating with three teams depending on how many people. Once the puck drops, all you hear is the squeaking of shoes, the grunts of focused players, and of course the shouts of victory as I score another goal. All I can say is… awesome!! Simply awesome! I plan on playing the rest of the semester. Whenever I find myself in the middle of a stressful week, I think to myself, if I can just make it to Wednesday…

Friday, October 21, 2011

So soon! - Diana from Cornerstone

I cannot believe I am going to Russia. And I cannot believe I am leaving next Friday! We have been practicing our Russian alphabet and some basic words in our Cross-Cultural Seminar. I actually wish I could learn more of the language. I’m so excited to see yet another kind of living and a whole new world of people. I absolutely love Russian literature (kind of weird, I know), so I am anxious to see the hubs of the setting for much of the great works written.

Speaking of Russian Literature, I plan to have Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky, on hand during the trip. I started it again for the second time this summer, and didn’t get to finish it once school (and Lithuania) came into the picture. Hopefully I can keep getting further down the mysterious road of the novel while riding down the mysterious road towards Russia.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Opera - Anders from Bethel

Opera.  Never in a million years would I have imagined myself even thinking about attending such a musical event.  The mere thought of fat, Viking ladies wailing at the top of their lungs was enough to make me cringe.  But as with many things in life, opera is an acquired taste.  I must say that I never would have expected to be traversing this Lithuanian land across the pond from my frozen Minnesotan homeland, least of all that I would experience my first ever opera in such a place.  But as Bilbo Baggins once said to Frodo, it truly is a dangerous business going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

For me, the first nudge out of the proverbial door was courtesy of my older brother.  He once had a Greatest Hit Trumpet Edition album that our family would occasionally listen to.  There were several famous trumpet pieces that ranged from Arban’s Variations on the Carnival of Venice to Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets.  What caught my ear, however, was a short little song by Tchaikovsky.  Though not necessarily anything special, the trumpet-led dance seemed to put me into a trance every time I listened to it.  And so, quite unexpectedly, I fell in love with all things Tchaikovsky.

What began with a compilation trumpet album soon grew exponentially to include such great works as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 4, and the world famous 1812 Overture.  As time went on, I couldn’t get enough of this purely orchestral music.  I gradually began to develop my collection of Tchaikovsky’s collected works to include all of his ballets among other things, and then something that I would never have expected: his most famous opera, Eugene Onegin.  The stereotypical operatic voice had begun to grow on me through other classical composers I had heard, yet I still failed to summon the courage to delve into an entire opera.  And clocking in at nearly two-and-a-half hours in length, one can see how I was a bit leery of jumping right in.  Of course, I would never have listened to it if I didn’t muster up the gumption to do just that: jump in.

One fall, I decided that it was high time I listened to Onegin, and so I did.  I was astounded.  Not only did I no longer mind the soaring vibrato that once made my ears bleed, but I was so taken with the expertly crafted melodies Mr. Tchaikovsky composed that I fell in love with the piece.  I didn’t care what it would take or how it would happen; I needed to see this wondrous piece performed.

Though it wasn’t the reason I decided to come to Eastern Europe, the common love for Tchaikovsky’s music in this realm of the world certainly made my decision to come that much easier.  When one of my new found friends mentioned that she and another would be traveling across the country to see a performance of the wonderful opera that I had come to love, I couldn’t say no.  In fact, I almost saw it as my duty to go.  A pilgrimage in the name of the great Russian composer.  And so, in no time at all, I found myself once again swept off on a new sonic adventure.

We left at dawn, which provided a stupendous opportunity to view the glorious sunrise, and were soon on our way to Vilnius.  Upon arrival, we wandered around the old city for a bit, grabbed some pizza, and were nearly late to the show.  But when we finally did arrive and sat down in the balcony, the scene in front of me was not what I had expected.  The stage looked like the side of an old building, and when the musicians filed out, they were wearing clothes right out of the 1960s.  Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback and skeptical.  All my concerns were laid to rest as soon as the orchestra began to play.  With an eerie beginning that soon crescendoed into an all-encompassing chorus of singing and symphonic splendor, I was transfixed.  Tchaikovsky had me, and he wouldn’t let go until the final heart-wrenching aria at the close.

What a ride.  Though the piece was written—and sung—completely in Russian (the Lithuanian subtitles at the top of the stage did little to help my feeling of being lost in translation), the depth of emotion ushered forth from both the soloists and the orchestra drew me in like nothing else.  What beautifully crafted melodies!  That such outstanding creativity could come from the mind of one man, and remain relevant to the point of inspiring a Minnesota Boy 132 years after it was first performed is simply incredible.  I could feel with the characters more than if they had just stated their troubles outright.  Hearing it live with the orchestra and singers right there in front of me, I was completely engulfed by the music.  With Eugene’s final cathartic cry, my hair that had been standing on end could finally take a rest.  The crowd erupted.  I could hardly contain my joyous praise.

As the road goes on, I doubt that the memory of experiencing Eugene Onegin will ever fade from my mind.  I guess opera isn’t that bad after all.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In Prague - Jared from Messiah

It was a cold and rainy day in Prague but that didn’t keep us off the streets. After arriving the night before with the Baklaievs we decided to set out and explore the city. Despite the inclement weather the cozy cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings raised our spirits. Throughout the trip I searched for a soccer jersey for my younger brother Joel. I told him I would get him a soccer jersey from each country I visited, seeing as soccer is his favorite sport. What an adventure it was to get that. Speaking with the Vietnamese in the open air market who would have thought Praha (the check name for Prague) could be confused with Paraguay. How did a Paraguay jersey even end up in Prague? After leaving there and trying another store I finally succeeded. I couldn’t tell you my favorite thing from the city; it was just an overall enjoyable trip.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cross-cultural Smorgasbord - Diana from Cornerstone

Tonight my hall held an Intercultural Potluck. It seems that we could just stick the word “intercultural” or “international” in front of any event we do at LCC and it is applicable – and at least for me, it doesn’t get old. My roommate and her friend made borsch – a personal favorite of mine. It’s Ukrainian beet soup. So good. My neighbors made Ukrainian potato pancakes. They were to die for. Our RD made an Italian pasta/broccoli/garlic dish – sups delish. My friend Jared made his favorite meal of all time that he would always choose to have for his birthday back home: Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie. It smelled divine. What a cool chance for sharing foods from all over.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visiting Stockholm - Paige from APU

This weekend I was in Stockholm! I went with 4 other girls, Amanda, Diana, Aurelija, and Angela. I decided to go to Stockholm because my family is Swedish, but also because the plane ticket was only about $16.

Once we got to Stockholm we realized it was one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Nonetheless we still had an amazing time. Amanda, Angela, and I spent the majority of our time in old town. There is just something about the old part of town that is simply majestic. We met some really pleasant locals and had some really wonderful conversations with them. Stockholm had some amazing food, so we ate extremely well while we were there. Greek food, mexican food, enchanting little cafe's, we pretty much ate our way through Stockholm. My favorite was when we all shared a plate of Swedish meatballs - yum! We got lost walking around quite a few times, but I truly think that is the fun in traveling. While you're lost make a joke of it, laugh at yourselves, that is the stuff memories are made of.

Being there I learned a lot about myself, my traveling comforts, and the people around me. It is interesting to travel with people you barely know, you truly get to know them for better and for worse while you're in another country together. Overall the trip was a wonderful success, and I say whenever the opportunity prevails - Go to Stockholm!! The people are pleasant, the city is enchanting, and you will never want to leave. I can't wait to share that experience with my family someday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Little About This Place in the eyes of Hannah from Gordon

Linked to the title "LCC" are the words "International" and "University"
The latter for reasons I don't need to explain.
However, did you know that as an international school,
LCC's student body includes 600 students from over 20 different countries?
Pretty incredible, right?
All of the classes are taught in English however,
(Thank goodness for me) meaning that each student (besides the SAS and any North American students)
speaks at least two languages.
I use "at least," because most speak three or four.
Walk down the halls of DeFehr,
or into a kitchen in either dorm and you'll hear Lithuanian, Ukranian, Russian, and maybe some English.
It's incredible, really.
Such a diverse crowd makes for a bright community, wouldn't you say?

Another interesting fact:
LCC is celebrating her 20th anniversary this year.
In light of this celebration, the school hosted an international fair in the city.
There, students set up booths with information, candy, and pictures from their home countries,
and some countries were even represented through song and dance.
USA students led the crowd in a rousing routine dance known as "Cotton Eyed Joe"
and so many people participated! It was great!

To conclude the fair, a professional Lithuanian song and dance group
played traditional folk songs and taught us traditional dances to go along with them!
Here's a bit one of my professors caught on his cellphone:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cycling in Tallin - Diana from Cornerstone

Cycling on cobblestone is an experience. If you like unrestrained and unpredictable bumping around, you've gotta try it! But besides the instability, I had the most memorable bike ride with my friends in Tallin, Estonia this weekend. We attempted to find the singing grounds where there is an anual music festival, and was the site of Estonia's "Singing Revolution." We didn't even make it that far, though, because there was a beautiful park on the way.

I think we went to a total of seven cafes between Tallin and Riga, Latvia. One thing I love about Europe in general is the number of independant coffee shops. At home, we've got Starbucks, Caribou, and Mc Cafe. There are really only a smattering of unique non-chain cafes. Here, I've seen one chain in my city, and only one other chain in Riga. Chains are far outweighed by unique, comfortable, artistic, independant cafes. And in Tallin and Riga, we just had to try them all :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

LCC celebrates its 20th anniversary

Last week LCC International University was celebrating its 20th birthday.  The anniversary festivities included a variety of events throughout the week, starting on Wednesday afternoon with a special Celebratory Chapel focusing on the memories of the last 20 years. The following days brought even more sharing, excitement and community involvement. On Friday, the campus together with the mayor of Klaipeda dedicated the new (and second) campus student residence hall, Enns Hall (or Enns Namai in Lithuanian).  With the completion of Enns Hall, all LCC students now live on campus.  Another highlight of Friday was a parade of LCC community members who marched with the flag of their home country through the city to one of the main city squares and an International Fair organized by LCC. Every country had a display table with pictures, traditional food and some elements that represented their country.  The Study Abroad students had their booth as well with tons of literature about the US, which was supplied by the US Embassy.  The event was crowned with a beautiful concert put together by the national minorities residing in Klaipeda (Russians, Tartars, Germans, Ukrainians) and the LCC students who shared their cultures through song and dance.  The Study Abroad students shared their culture through leading the crowd in a square dance.  It was a great time to be a part of the LCC community to celebrate 20 years of beautiful history and to share our cultural diversity beyond the campus borders.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mission Sea: Accomplished - Diana from Cornerstone

Today we got lost on the way to church. My roommate thought she knew  a shortcut through the woods. I wasn't feeling very well, so I easily could have been upset about it, but I realized how beautiful the sun was streaming through the trees -- you know, that way it does in pine forests. It was so beautiful, and the the feeling of soft grass under my feet. I only wish I had taken off my shoes. Which I should have, because my shoes ended up getting so wet from the dew. Dew is always nicer on bare feet than in cloth boots in a cold church building.

Anyway, after church, we went to the Sea and hopped it. Wow, it was cold! So, that was a short swim. Rarely am I the kind of person who settles for not getting your hair wet, but I would probably be lying in bed wrapped up in a thousand blankets and sniffling up a storm while sipping my 30th cup of tea by now if we had gone all the way. 

Then we changed, picked some wildflowers, put them in my boots and walked home. It made me anxious for my boots to become too old and rugged to be worn so I could turn them into pots for plants. 

Basically, today made me so grateful for the way my life is here. My roommate is a beautiful person who is willing and excited to do the silly and crazy things that most people say, oh that would be nice. They're the things I long to do with people, but most people say no. It made me grateful for how much we walk here. I'm dreading going back to school when everyone will drive to the grocery store, and I will suggest walking, and they will laugh. I have found that Saturdays are kind of my designated homesick days, where I do everything I can to ignore it, and then Sundays are my confirmation days, telling me, you belong here! This is the best place to be, and you will not be the same when you leave!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Botanical Gardens - Jared from Messiah

The wind rustled the verdant leaves of the stately Baltic Birch that stood along the bank of the river. The ripples of the lazily flowing river spread and broke the reflection of the sky that had been resting serenely on the surface. The smell of ripe apples floated from the trees wilting under the weight of plump green fruit. A sunflower stood alone overlooking the scene in silence as the clouds passed in front of the sun.

Is it hard to believe that this description is of Klaipeda? In a city, who would imagine that such natural beauty could be found?  The Botanical Gardens are a 30 to 45 minute walk from LCC’s campus and provide a wonderful and inspiring atmosphere in which to study, enjoy God’s creation and to take time in God’s word. Thank you Lord for your creation! What a wonderful and mighty God we serve. Psalm 19:1-3 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” Please as you read this don’t just stop at verse three open your bible and read more! Or feel free to click here and read the rest of the chapter online! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Learning more about the Baltics - Hannah from Gordon

Film "The Singing Revolution" describes the nonviolent revolution in Estonia, and the struggle of the Baltic states to maintain their culture and national identity under the USSR. The weekend prior to this viewing, the class was assigned a journal in which we were to read about Lithuanian culture and history and answer the question "What historical events set Lithuania apart?" So I was already amazed and overwhelmed at the perseverance and unity that is unique to these surrounding cultures by the time we watched the documentary - I was a goner. It depicts something that we in America have never really experienced, something that is difficult to understand, but when you begin to realize what oppression means for these people, and that a government can threaten a thousand years of history and culture, I think you too will be overwhelmed at their love of country and understand why they fought to preserve their culture.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Languages - Diana from Cornerstone

Saturday, I got to spend some time with some local girls who are seniors in high school. They are planning to come to school at LCC, and they wanted to practice conversational English, so LCC set us up to meet at a sweet little coffee shop downtown Klaipeda.

I was so excited to meet with them and see where they were at. At LCC, everyone has already had their English skills tested, and they have refined it by speaking to most of their international friends here in English. So I was excited and honored to be a part of these girls’ first interactions with English speakers outside of the classroom. One of the girls was very self-conscious about opening up and speaking in English. It was mostly fine, because her friend was very talkative, and there was never an awkward lull. I really wanted to get across the fact that it’s important to speak, and maybe mess up even, right now and with me, cause I can work with her and hopefully gently correct, but I was just reminded by how nervous I can get to speak Lithuanian and German, both of which I’m just starting now.

I’m so embarrassed to speak a new language, especially to a native speaker, even though they are the best ones to help. I am so afraid to butcher their language. But from talking with these wonderful girls, and from trying (and admittedly failing) to speak Lithuanian with my roommates, I’ve learned something important – If I wait to understand something fully before do it, I will never do anything, and it will take longer to understand it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lithuwhatia? - Jared form Messiah

Lithuwhatia? Lithuwhereia? I am pretty sure that I heard it all before I left my home in Pennsylvania. After the hundredth time of explaining Lithuania is an actual country and giving quick geography lessons things got a little repetitive. Then next thing I knew I was on the plane flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the Study Abroad group was already in the capital city of Vilnius but Kimi Curtis, Iulia Gafencu, Sara Swaciak, Natalie Anders and I were still sitting on the plane with a men and women’s Lithuanian basketball team. After landing and getting our luggage we walked through the dimly lit corridors and entered our new home for the next four months. A brass ensemble greeted us and cameras were flashing all around us! Everyone was waving Lithuanian flags and cheering! “Welcome to Lithuania!” said a man as he waved for us to come toward him. “We wanted to give you a good greeting!”

Now for all of you who are amazed at our greeting, I am sorry but I am going to have to pop your bubble. The brass ensemble and waving flags were for the basketball teams not the five of us. Emas our experience coordinator guided us out of the airport and to the bus that was waiting to take us to the hostel were we would spend our first few days in Lithuania as we toured the capital city. As we loaded onto the bus I looked around me. This was going to be an interesting trip.

Now I could go on and on with all the things that happened that first week but already I am somewhere around two hundred and eighty two words and chances are you are starting to say where is this guy going with this so I will spare you a detailed explanation of the first few days. Instead let me say our time in Vilnius was great and now I am settled in here at LCC and I am sure that there will be plenty more that will happen. But until then I want to leave you with this thought. Nahum 1:7 says “The Lord is good a stronghold in the day of trouble and He knoweth those that trust in Him.” No matter what happens whether we are studying in a foreign country or sitting at a computer reading this blog the Lord is good. He is our stronghold and He knows us. What a great and mighty God we have!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Take your skis to Lithuania!

That’s another thing you can add to your packing list coming to Lithuania. The new indoor ski resort is opened in Druskininkai (Southern Lithuania). According to Baltic Times “The new facility, named the Snoras Snow Arena, is one of the largest such facilities in the EU.” This new skiers’ dream is more than 1100 meters long and the hills reach 66 meters. Both indoor and outdoor skiing slopes are suitable for different levels of skiers. Thus, if you like to enrich your study abroad experience in Lithuania now you can do that by adding skiing to the list.

The Model of Snow Arena

Snoras Snow Arena surrounded by a beautiful landscape


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Out of the Country - Diana from Cornerstone

The longest I’ve been out of the country (“the country” being the US) before this point has been three weeks. I was maybe nine-years-old and my mom, my sister Kaia, who is two years older than me, and myself took an adventure by plane, bus, foot, and cramped taxi to Apoxtla, Mexico, to spend almost a month with my dear aunt, uncle and cousins who were living there. Before we left, my mom talked about “culture shock,” whatever that meant. I knew a “shock” could be on your bike, or on your face, but I had no idea what the first word meant, so I didn’t really worry about it. Kaia was sick for a week when we were there, so I figured that’s what culture shock was.

Now, I have been in Lithuania for three weeks, which is definitely “out of the country,” and have been in Klaipeda, at LCC for two weeks. One of these days is the day that marks my record for the longest I’ve been out of the country. But there are different elements that, even though it has been the same amount of time, have made these three weeks drastically different from my other out-of-country experiences.

Before, I had the expectation of leaving shortly. I lived out of a suitcase, and I lived with Americans – family or friends – and I had someone who spoke English as well as the language of the country we’re in with me at all times. This trip, I have had the idea of “culture shock” jammed into my skull so mercilessly, that I’m still not sure what it means. But I’m definitely learning about culture – theirs, mine and ours – by every conversation, every transaction, and every glance. And it is shocking.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Study Abroad Lithuania welcomes you to the new academic year!  A year of adventures, learning and new discoveries.  We begin this semester with 23 North American students representing 12 different institutions and 650 LCC students from 25 different countries.  This is going to be a special semester as LCC International University celebrates 20 years of its history.
Once again welcome to the new Study Abroad Lithuania blogging season!  Enjoy following our journeys and  join us in the future! 

P.S.  Lithuania is hosting the European basketball championship this month and it’s exciting to be in Lithuania during this time.  The Lithuanian team so far has lost only once and progressed to the next stage.  Go Lietuva!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gold Glory or Knowing How to Play Basketball

FIBA U19 World championship that took place in Latvia at the end of June and beginning of July showed that Lithuanians not only like basketball but also are able to play it well. Lithuania’s junior basketball team (under 19 years of age) won the golden medals in the World Championship with a convincing 85:67 victory over Serbian youth in the final match. The other countries that claimed medals were Serbia (silver) and Russia (bronze). In addition, the most high-scoring player of the championship is also from Lithuanian team – Jonas Valančiūnas. He heightened the game by adding 36 points to Lithuania’s side that later resulted into the highest medal.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Home - Jackie from Westmont

Home is where the heart is. We’ve all heard it before and we have all pondered where we consider our own home. My heart is broke; separated into pieces spread out all over the world.

After spring semester at LCC, Rachel (another study abroad) and I strategically packed our two bags and traveled across Europe, prepared to take all that we had learned through the semester and all that we feared about being alone, along with us. We woke up early on May 2nd feeling nervous and excited and completely out of tears from how much we had cried the last few days after saying goodbye to all of our new friends. We headed to Vilnius by train. By mid-morning we were in Lithuania’s beautiful capital, all of us thinking back to the beginning of the semester, Vilnius being where we started our journey, though at that time the ground was covered in icy snow and that’s all we could tell you, because that’s all we focused on to keep from falling flat on our backs. Vilnius was just the beginning of our Europe adventure. We traveled to Sweden, Hungary, Germany, Ireland, France, and England after that. Each place holds a special place in my heart.

Though I would love to sit here and tell you each detail of my trip that would not be entertaining for you and it would probably cause my fingers to go numb. The whole thing was amazing. I would encourage anyone to take time to travel. It causes you to learn so much about yourself, along with the places you go. When you travel you get the chance to see beauty all over the world; beauty in people, in buildings, in nature. This beauty causes you to worship and be amazed by the creator. This balances the feelings of stress that can come from constantly being in a plane or on a train or in a bus.

I will tell you that my favorite place that we went to was 

Budapest, Hungary. It had it all. It had the beautiful buildings and the rolling hills and the city wonderfully surrounding a grand river. It had real Hungarian people that I got to experience living next to and walking the streets with. It had culture and history. It was beautiful. A lot of my heart went to this city and at one point I am bound and determined to return to experience it all again.

I’ve been home for almost a week now. I found it easy to come home to my family and difficult to function in it at times. Part of it has to do with how much happened while I was away; in me and in my family. I have found myself being amazed by things that were routine in my life before I became a world explorer and I found myself ready to live a simpler life in a not so simple society. Everyday will be a challenge to not lose all that I learned and to begin to implement a new life style. I have found myself thankful for each challenge that I face, knowing that the tough times are what helps me grow and learn the most. I am still discovering values that I have learned and ways I have changed over the past few months but I love every minute of discerning the new me.
Home is where the heart is. My heart is with the wonderful people that I have met in these past five months and in the places I have explored. I wouldn’t change one minute of my experience; each place has stolen the pieces of my heart forever. At summer's end I will return to Westmont to again readjust to a new living environment, but again: every challenge spurs growth if you allow yourself to learn from it. It's an important lesson to learn which allows you to leave the pieces of your heart in other places but move on in one place, at the same time...a challenge in itself. May you grow. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ella from Wheaton about semester in Lithuania

Lithuania may remain an undiscovered land for many people in the United States, but it forever has a place in my heart.

 Four months in Klaipeda – that city on the Sea – were incredible. What a fast semester! But, at the same time, it was a full semester with enough time to really immerse in the place and people. Looking back, from my home in central PA, I have nothing but the greatest joy that I went to a place that most Americans would at best deem really random.

It’s hard to choose one thing to write about in this blogpost because I am overflowing with memories of the richest kind. At first, when I came home, I spent a lot of time remembering the people I met and the things we did together. I missed (and still do) them very much. I thought of the sauna trips, the bicycle rides, the endless cups of tea and fount of conversation, the hugs, the ways they challenged me, the interesting and valued perspective I brought to them as well and the teary goodbyes.

Further, many silly interactions came to mind. For example, I remember when I had a “cultural exchange” with two of my roommates from Ukraine. They insisted I try salo (basically uncooked fat that is salted or smoked). To an American, this was a really gross suggestion. They were persuasive, though, and I was willing. In return, I insisted they experience American culture by having a PB&J. We made a pact to respect each other's culture and proceeded. The results were that salo isn't so bad and they enjoyed the PB&J! They weren’t thrilled about the PB at first but they came around. [On a side note, Lithuanians also enjoy salo. They call it lašiniai].

"This is what 'strong Ukrainian men have been taking
with them to the fields for centuries?!'
"What do you mean
'schoolchildren across US eat this every day?!'"

Now that more time has past, I also spend time remembering Lithuania as a whole (and my trips to Russia, Estonia and Latvia with the program). I think of the Sea, the cobbled streets, the really quirky statues etc throughout Klaipeda, the bus drivers, the Soviet and pre-Soviet architecture, my LCC community and classes, Lithuania's fascinating history, the snow and mist, and daily life there. There was so much to discover. Those who know me will attest that I'm a wanderer. Even so, I never ran out of interesting places and things to see.

I saw these "Happy Buttons" at the end of my trip.

Lastly, I have thought and prayed about all that I learned there. This isn't the place for me to recount all the things that I learned, though. In fact, it's probably best if you go and learn for yourself.

The last thing I will say, is that Lithuania wasn’t always an easy place to be. Perhaps that is why the place which LT has in my heart is so secure -- most things of real value I have always found to be challenging in some respect. Spending time in a foreign country certainly has its challenges. For instance, it's humbling to have to play by someone else's rules.

Want to ask this particular blogger any questions? email and they'll hook you up with my info and I'll hook you up with the inside scoop.