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.