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.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Viskas - Alyssa from APU

As I have been living in Lithuania for 4 months now, and have come to the end of the semester, there is only one word that comes to my mind to sum up this experience: viskas (pronounced vis-kus). Obviously, this is a Lithuanian word that most of you aren't familiar with. Depending on who you ask, viskas can have multiple meanings. For example, when ordering food and you want to say "That's all," you would say "viskas." Or, if someone asks how you are doing you would say, "Viskas gerai," which means, "everything is good." I have learned that you can pretty much say "viskas" in any situation in which you want to get across the end of something, the completion, the end, the entirety, everything.

Alas, as I sit here on the couch in the 4th East lounge of Neumann Hall (which has been my faithful hang out spot for the semester) and as I watch the clock tick down the 6 hours, 45 minutes, and 30 seconds until I leave for the airport, all I can say to you is: viskas. My semester is done, my studies are complete, my friends have left, we have said goodbyes, and I (hope) my tears have stopped flowing. Viskas. This is it. I feel a great sense of completion and yet a profound sense of sadness because the end of something is not always a happy viskas.

Remember my first post about trying to fit my entire life into one suitcase? If not, you should read it. And then come back and read this. Because that first post sounds so trivial to me now. I was bringing 50 pounds of things that I really didn't need. Honestly, I could have survived with less than half of what I brought. This semester has been such a whirlwind for me and I will have more time to process it and blog about it in a couple weeks when I am back in the United States. But for now, I still have 10 days ahead of me to explore France and Germany with my sister.

So for now, I can say viskas. Viskas indeed.