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 :)