Friday, December 21, 2012

The world is a book - Breanna from APU

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augustine

I stumbled across this quote a while ago, and every once in a while, I go back to read it. And each time I read it, the more true it has become.

The world is a book. It's full of interesting characters, unbelievable places, and exciting adventures. The more time you invest in reading a book, the more you want to finish it. And once you dive in, it's impossible to stop reading. There's always something exciting that comes next.

I've begun to realize that travel is the same. The more of the world you see, the more interesting it becomes. Once you start, you can't stop. It's simply addicting. A while back, I read that, "traveling is the only thing you can buy, that makes you richer". And I couldn't agree more with this quote.

While I am still in the first chapter of this book, and certainly not yet an experienced traveler, I'm learning that this world is meant to be traveled. There are too many beautiful things to see, too much history to learn, and too many languages that need to be heard. Every country is unique in it's own way, and has a special story to tell.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What is normal - and where do I find it? - Deb from Roberts Wesleyan

This past week has been filled with mixed emotions. Final projects are getting assigned, final trips are being planned, and I'm beginning to think about packing to go home. The semester is coming to a close! As excited as I am to come home to people I love and a country I'm familiar with, a part of me is sad to be leaving Lithuania. I've made amazing friends and have had the chance to visit so many different countries along the way.

There are certain things about Lithuania that I've grown accustomed to, and it's going to be difficult to go back home and not have these things. For example, tea time with roommates is something I've grown to love. I've gotten used to walking down the cobblestone streets of Old Town, eating kepta duona (cheese bread) and bandelės su curd (rolls with sweet cheese inside), and spending time with friends who speak different languages. It's really strange now to overhear people speaking English, because I'm so used to hearing Russian. I've actually forgotten a lot of English words just from lack of using them! I've gotten used to dressing up for class (no T-shirts here!), and to walking EVERYWHERE.  On the street, I walk past people without saying "hi" or smiling and I only ask someone how they are if I have time to listen to how they really are.  In the grocery store, I stand uncomfortably close to people in line without feeling uncomfortable, and get annoyed if there is too much space between other people in line. I bring my own bag and bag my own groceries. 

All of this has come to feel "normal" now. I actually don't really know what normal is anymore- it's different in every country!  Being in this part of the world has helped me learn so much about history and culture. Seeing things like Soviet prisons and Nazi war uniforms has suddenly made things interesting that I had zero interest in before. You can read about it in a history book all you want, or even go to a museum in the States, but it will never have the same effect as standing in an actual KGB prison cell. We watched footage of an actual prisoner being killed in the very room we were standing in. And this happened just a few years before I was born! It was unbelievable and not something I ever want to see again, but it really put things in perspective. A year ago, I didn't know Lithuania was even a country...it's safe to say my knowledge of geography has gotten just a little bit better. In addition, this semester has redefined my definition of "traveling light" and changed my opinion of what is a "good" place to sleep (McDonalds in Germany, anyone?).  I've learned how to be flexible, and I've learned to appreciate different languages instead of getting annoyed that people don't speak English.  It's been a crazy, but amazing couple of months here in Europe! That said, I can't wait to be home.  My ETA is three weeks from tomorrow! Time really does fly when you're having fun :) 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The contemplative Life – Lizzy from Cornerstone

Since Lithuania is in the center of Europe, many students take advantage of cheap flights and opportunities to travel.Some students choose to visit Rome or Paris, and others look for more unique opportunities. Below are a few notes from Lizzy after spending a weekend visiting a peaceful monastery in Germany.
Sr. Makrina and I before I left to go back to Lietuva.
Photo by Lizzy
It began as a solo journey to a foreign land, not knowing what to expect or how I would get there, but I was on my way.  My destination would be Dinklage, Germany...The weekend was filled with a lot of talking and a lot of thinking.  These sisters live a very contemplative life, and I envy their devotion.  I am grateful for the time I could spend in Kloster Burg Dinklage and I am thankful that I could spend my time there talking with a follower of Christ.

Monday, December 10, 2012

LCC’s Got Talent – Abby from Northwestern

LCC held their annual talent show.  I was really excited to see what students and staff would show us.  It was a pretty good show too; the musical acts ranged from pop to punk to Gangnam Style and other entertainment included a magician and “swimming.”

Magicians Photo by Abby

Friday, December 7, 2012

Learning Humility - Missy from Eastern

In Study Abroad Seminar, we took a survey: “75 long-term outcomes of an international experience.” This helped me to think about the ways that I have changed, things that I have learned–and also what I have not learned from my time here.

Something valuable I have learned is to ask for help/favors from other people. In the past, I have been too proud to ask others for help; I get a sense of satisfaction from being self-sufficient and “having it together.” I hate to be a burden to others. Coming here with only a forty-two pound suitcase, I have needed a lot of things that it is just impractical to buy (i.e. cookware, hairdryer, large bookbag, etc.). Also, being a foreigner, there have been many situations in which I’ve needed directions, social etiquette cues, and translation. I am grateful that I have gracious roommates and friends who have really been an example to me of generous, cheerful givers. “Ask and you shall receive”–sometimes God’s provision is there for the taking, we just have to be bold enough–or humble enough–to ask. Now that I have been a recipient of such generosity, I am learning to be more giving to others.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Petunia, the Lithuanian Turkey - Abby from Northwestern

Our food table. Photo by Abby
While schools and workplaces in the US were closed this week, I continued to go to classes and play catch-up on homework.  Lithuania obviously does not observe Thanksgiving.  I knew this would be a hard week to be away from home, and it was. I love Thanksgiving.  I love its purpose, the time spent with family, the food, the football games, the card games, etc.

I didn’t get all of that, but I came about as close as you can when you’re 5000 miles away from home.  My RA organized a potluck Thanksgiving dinner between 2 pods in my building (30-40 people).  Each room signed up to bring a dish: turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, dessert, or drinks.  I was leaning in the direction of mashed potatoes or dessert, but my roommates wouldn’t have it.  They wanted to bring the main attraction–the turkey. Nastia nor Yulia had ever eaten turkey before and this was the second time for Hedi and Irsana.  So I consented to help prepare it (even though I’ve never done it!) if they could figure out where to get a turkey.  You see, you can’t just go to the store and buy a turkey here.  You won’t find one in the frozen food section, which is why people have never eaten turkey here.  It’s just not something they eat on sandwiches or for the holidays.


On Wednesday, she took a bus down to the market and bought a 5 kg turkey (11 lbs) for something like 60 litas ($23).  So it was expensive compared to standards in the US, but simple economics makes the pricing easy to understand.  The second I got back from classes Nastia jumped out of her chair and rushed me to the fridge.  She had to show me the prize for her turkey quest.  The spirits were high in my room that night!

Seasoning with Yulia and Hedi. Photo by Abby
Now the ball was in my court.  I became the expert on how to prepare a turkey. I did some googling to figure out seasoning and cooking times, gathered a few ingredients, and went for it!   Yulia named it Petunia, although the gender is still in question.  Three hours later, Petunia was ready to eat.  
After we ate, we went around our tables and said what we’re thankful for.  Then, a study abroad cut out the wishbone; we explained the tradition and had two Europeans break it after they made wishes. We followed that up by watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  I may not have been at my grandparent’s house with the fam this year, but I still got to be with people I love and eat yummy food.

I will always cherish this year’s Thanksgiving because I finally got to feel like I had something cultural to share (and I made a turkey!).  I didn’t realize how uniquely American Thanksgiving is.  We have traditions and even some foods that I can be proud of!  I had a lot of fun sharing this part of my culture with my roommates and giving them a taste (literally) of what Thanksgiving is like.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Minute To Win It" on campus!

Last week LCC students organized "Minute To Win It" challenges in one of LCC's student residence halls.

One of the teams before the game
The Balloon Challenge



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Being thankful - Franklin from Gordon


I received an e-mail from my friend, Teapot, who is currently studying in Orvieto, Italy. She sends these updates out to people every few weeks informing us of her experiences and her thoughts on being abroad. The latest one included a list of things she is thankful for. I thought I would do the same. It is now half-way through the semester and I'm coming to realize what I appreciate both here and in America.

1. I'm thankful for my family. For the first time in 14 years, I miss them (the last time was when I was a 6-year-old day-camper and homesick). I know they wish the best for me, and often times know the best for me.

2. I'm thankful for my friends back home. My day has been made multiple times when I received a letter from one of them--whether a note about killing a bee, a mad lib, or a literary work of art. I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that relationships can grow even though there is an ocean between us. Likewise...

3. I am thankful for Skype and Facebook, so I can keep in touch with people.

4. I'm thankful for the friends I have made here. I love hearing their stories, their thoughts, and their jokes. Sometimes, doing homework isn't worth it when I can learn so much more from a conversation over tea than from a Language Acquisition textbook.

5. As mano protinga sesuo said in a reply to an earlier post, I really do appreciate the other Americans here. Yes, we can be imposing, but it is very relieving to have someone who is experiencing the same things as me.

6. I'm thankful for Mindaugas, my English student. Every English lesson is so rewarding because I actually get to interact with someone who is living in real life--not only that, but living it fully and well. I hear about his family, his girlfriend, his job, his plans, his dreams, his daily routine. It's a sort of escape for me from the idea of 'studying abroad' to actually living here. And I find more and more that I love to teach. Sometimes it is difficult, but I never dislike it.

7. I'm thankful that people, at least somewhere in the world, still live simply. I see old men riding their bikes through the forest even on cold, windy days and I admire them for finding joy in nature. 'Fun' does not seem to have spoiled natural pleasure here.

8. I'm thankful for my roommates and all the curious things that happen between us.

9. I am thankful for the opportunities I have here: traveling, teaching, editing, cooking, learning, playing. All of these are enabling me to make the best of this experience.

10. I'm thankful for the nice ladies at the post office. Without their patience and understanding, I would never be able to send anything.

11. I had forgotten how pleasant alone time was. Mindaugas was late to our English lesson yesterday (we actually missed each other by 4 minutes), but while I waited for him, I was able to  take my focus off school, culture, and work, and just sit and think.

12. I'm very thankful for food that other people make, because I'm not very creative.

13. I'm thankful for my German student. I was writing my German professor a post card saying that I wasn't able to use it my knowledge much, but as soon as I finished writing, I got a visit from a girl who is engaged to a German and needs to practice speaking. Thanks Jesus, that was cool. We've been meeting for three weeks and today is our final lesson before she moves there officially.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tutoring - Rebecca from George Fox

I've started tutoring a 14 year old girl named Jelena (pronounced "Yelena") in English. She speaks enough English that I can have a conversation with her, but I'm still getting the hang of this whole TESOL thing. During each 1 hour tutoring session, we do grammar worksheets and I struggle to explain why exactly the past participle of "forget" is "forgotten" and then I force her to speak English for the rest of the time. Sometimes I have her read short stories out loud to help expand her vocabulary, so trying to explain what certain verbs mean involves me doing some pretty embarrassing miming to get the meaning across. I also ask her lots and lots of questions about her life in Lithuania and even when she struggles to find the right word in English (which is when Google translate comes in handy), I have so enjoyed learning from her.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Risk takers at Hermitage

Photo by Kristen
One of the snapshots from the fall break trip to Russia. The group is posing after their exploring time in one of the most amazing art museums in the world - Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Friday, November 9, 2012

An American in Russia - Breanna from APU

Moscow
Moscow is home to over eleven million people, and is the current capital and largest city of Russia. Moscow hosts the most billionaires in the world, and apparently boasts the most expensive cup of coffee. Moscow has such a unique hustle and bustle to it-unlike any city I've visited before. The people, culture, architecture, and history certainly make it an unforgettable place.
As we got off the train in Russia, we started our long walk to the Godzilla Hostel. It was quite the journey to our hostel, considering all the snow on the ground was turning into slush from the downpour of rain. Despite my careful and strategic efforts to dodge puddles, my shoes were soaked by the time we reached the hostel. Lesson learned: always bring waterproof shoes, and more socks than you think you could possibly ever use.
The Moscow Metro is the best metro system I've ever seen. We traveled in 4 groups of about 8 to 9 students to avoid getting lost and drawing too much attention as tourists. My favorite game to play was the "Don't-look-like-an-American" game. We tried to blend in whenever we got on the metro. Our pre-departure tips of don't speak too loudly, don't smile, don't look lost, and don't stare proved to be good instructions. To semi blend-in, requires a silent entry, no talking during the ride, and picking a spot on the floor to stare at for the entire duration of the trip. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the metro, as it is illegal to take them; unlawful activities seemed like a bad idea. 
McDonald's. Photo by Breanna
Within the first 5 minutes of being in Russia, I could see how much Americans stand out as tourists. Before even reaching the hostel, two different people asked us if we were American--and we weren't even speaking English. Locals just know. As the week went on, I started to take note of the things that label us as Americans. First, we dress differently. Our clothes are brightly colored, while Russian fashion is primarily dark colors. The next thing I noticed is how loudly we talk. As Americans, we talk in nearly every setting. We can never simply be silent. On the metro, it was rare to see Russians talk, even if they knew each other. The train could be packed, with no seats left, yet still be completely silent. We also point and wave excessively. If a friend is in sight, we wave--no matter the distance. 

The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet, not the Latin alphabet. Hence, reading Russian was quite the task. The three weeks prior to departure we had three short lessons on basic Russian. We learned the alphabet, common phrases, foods, and greetings. I spent the entire week staring at signs, trying to decipher just one word. It was surprisingly entertaining. On the rare occasion I could read a word and actually comprehend the meaning, it was very exciting. Even places like McDonald's, Starbucks, Cinnabon, and Wendy's are spelled using the Russian alphabet. Hopefully you recognize the iconic "Golden Arches", but in case you need me to translate--a picture of McDonald's.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Orphanage - Franklin from Gordon

There is an orphanage about a kilometer from LCC. I had been there once before today. During the previous visit we got to know the children's names, personalities, and a little bit of their humor. We played the most exciting game of Duck, Duck, Goose ever and threw teddy bears at each other.

Today was slightly different. We arrived at the orphanage and were greeted excitedly by Martinas, one of the children. He was dressed to play outside, and outside we were promptly led. We went to the gym to see if some of the kids playing there wanted to come with us. Martinas suggested (and decided) that we go to the park not too far from the orphanage. I actually didn't know that there was a park, but it's past a memorial cemetery and quite far down a bike trail in the woods. I had actually been there before, but by a very different and round about way one of the first days here. Regardless, it is a very nice playground. There is also a high ropes course being built in the woods around it. We stayed with six or seven kids for about 45 minutes laughing, chasing each other, and eating cookies. The kids know very little English, most of which comes from pop songs and, therefore, is practically useless. However, we can still have fun. Although most of them do speak Russian so my friends can translate for me. One girl named Evelyna has some physical handicaps, but has a witty, ornery, and contagious sense of humor to make up for it. She has a difficult time speaking, so she often spells words in order to communicate. However, she seems to be one of the few children who has a fairly good grasp on English (and Russian and Lithuanian). She always seems to understand what I'm saying no matter what language I happen to try. Today, she decided to chase me and get as close to me as possible without me noticing and then pretend to fight with me. Then she stops, gives me a judgmental look with her hands on her hips, and asks why I laugh so much. Then she proceeds to laugh at my reaction. She's quite hilarious for a 10-year-old.

Our time there was short today, but very enjoyable. All but two of the LCC students were planning on going to church in the evening and we had to catch the bus to make it there in time, so we had to go. Even after just 45 minutes, the children didn't want us to leave. On both sides, it made all of us sad. They love the attention and care they get from us, but we know that they have hard lives. Although they are sufficiently cared for, they still lack a proper family. We learned in our Study Abroad Seminar that adoption is very rare in Lithuania, and even more so for children with handicaps. It's strange to think that they will go through all their childhood without immediate family, and then they will enter adulthood, leave the orphanage, and still not have a family.

On a different note, I have been thinking about the friendships I've made here. Right now, they are rewarding and I love that I get to hear about people's lives. But what happens when I leave and most likely never see any of these friends again? What is the purpose of my investment? Should I invest in lives and friendships here? Please pray that the friendships I make here will not just be a relationship between me and person, but, that by being here, I could be used as a tool to assist people in their relationship with Jesus. What else is a lasting impact? Pray that I have opportunities to talk to people and live out my faith...or at least give them something to think about.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Culture - Missy from Eastern

Every day I discover little differences and surprising similarities about Eastern European culture. Today, I learned even more about the difference in common foods. I was very lucky to get a care package from my church a few days ago; along with a host of useful things, they included some homemade cookies! I shared them with my roommates and they asked  me what each kind was called–chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar–they had never tried or heard of these! Brownies are also apparently a uniquely American treat. SO, if you didn’t think we had culture–we do. 

All my life, I have wished that I had some sort of unique or interesting heritage to celebrate; in a culture that embraces diversity, being a plain white-bread WASP in America has never seemed all that exciting. Most people think they have grown up in the most normal place in the world–and before I came to Eastern Europe, I felt this way about my home. Being here has made me realize that I do have valuable and interesting cultural traditions (as well as some cultural characteristics that are not that admirable…more on this later).  
Photo taken from HERE

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Don't Tremble - Karissa from John Brown

When I told people that I was going to study in Lithuania, their first reaction was: “Now, where is that exactly?” (on the Baltic Sea, near Russia).  I also got a lot of “What language do they speak there?” (Lithuanian) and “Do they have internet?” (the fastest in the world).  Apparently, Americans don’t have a plethora of knowledge about this little Baltic state, and most likely everyone was wondering “Why in the world did that girl not pick Australia?!”  I often wonder this myself, actually; in fact, I wonder it nearly every time I step outside into the cold.  However, although I have had some difficulties along the way, I’ve never regreted choosing Lithuania. 

The town of Klaipėda where I live is absolutely beautiful.  I will never get tired of the baroque style buildings with their pastel colors and red clay rooftops.  I love the farmer’s market where I get fresh honey and where apples are a steal.  I love that the sea is a 30 minute walk away, and I love the sailboat I see docked on the river every time I cross the Old Town bridge.  

Aside from that, living here has been an adjustment for me.  People act differently.  It has been hard to get to know people here on campus (LCC International University).  More and more I have been appreciating the friendliness of American culture.  It is something I have definitely taken for granted.  I find myself not really knowing how to act here, even in simple situations, like ordering at a restaurant.  Not to mention that everything is in Lithuanian.  Nevertheless, armed with my translation app and my 3 weeks of Intro to Lithuanian knowledge I have been able to get by so far.  You cannot imagine how overwhelming it is to walk into a grocery store and not know the difference between milk and sour cream. Things that used to be so easy before have suddenly become very difficult.  Why don’t people ever smile at you walking on the street?  Why is my coffee the size of a dixie cup, and why can’t I wear a t-shirt and jeans to class without looking like a slob compared to everyone else?  

Things go wrong all the time, like buying tomato paste instead of marinara sauce and getting my scarf stolen by a random man on the street.  But I am learning, more and more, that my life will always be like that.  I am going to miss people who are far away, I will always wonder about my future, and I will ruin my beet soup.  But sometimes, sometimes things will go okay.  I will have amazing opportunities to share the gospel, I will make unexpected lifelong friends, and I will successfully buy that Lithuanian pastry without needing English.  

And when things do go wrong, I find myself thinking of the song “(Don’t) Tremble” by The Low Anthem, where the chorus goes:

If your hand should lose its grip
Do not tremble, do not sweat
For where then would you get
Where then would you get 

I realized it’s no use getting upset.  It’s better to just relax and go along with whatever life brings you.  Looking back, these catastrophic problems now, will not seem so big, and I may even find that I have grown from them.  Life is a huge adventure, and I am not going to miss it.

And I’ll try to remember this next time I get off at the wrong bus stop, and have to sprint 2 blocks to my teaching practicum.
Do not tremble. Do not sweat.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

One Lap Down - Buddy from Messiah

Comparing my experience to running a mile may not be the best of metaphors (not going to stop me though). I mean, they use the metric system here and to be quite honest, I haven’t seen too many people out jogging… Maybe it is because no one is overweight, and therefore no one needs to exercise? Who’s can say? All I know is that my trip is 1/4 of the way done. If things keep up, this will be the fastest mile I have ever run. Sign me up for the 2016 Olympics, I’m gonna bring home the gold.

You can quote me on that.

So I’ve finished a lap, been here a month, and I’ve hardly broken a sweat! At least that’s how it seems. Thirty days have just disappeared in a flash and I’m not even breathing heavy. Or am I?
If I take a step back, as I am doing now, and have done periodically since I have been here, it is easy to see the actual effect my time abroad has had on me. I’m still pushing, but I am tired. My head is throbbing, and my soul is bruised. But it is a good pain. You know the feeling – you just worked out harder than ever. The next day you wake up, and you can’t get out of bed. But you know you accomplished something; pushed yourself beyond your limits and succeeded. That’s where I am right now. Or rather, I can see that is where I am heading. At this point, I think I am just at the tail end of my workout. I have that one final set to put me over the top, then a cool-down, and then rest. But those can’t happen until it’s time to leave the gym.

I know I am going to get there. You can feel it when you’re in the middle of a good workout and working hard. Let’s tally it up = I’ve traveled some thousand miles across the Atlantic. Stayed up for nearly thirty hours, 6 of those spent in the Warsaw airport. I’ve spent time in five cities, seen a castle, waded in the Baltic sea, partied at a medieval dance club/microbrewery, gotten lost, gotten found, walked a million miles, been borderline sexually assaulted, and made friends from 28 different countries.

Oh yeah, I’m taking a full course-load too. All in all, quite the workout. Move over Jillian.
I am tired. I said it once, and I am saying it again. I’ve had enough new experiences to last me a lifetime, and I still have three months to go. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and any other positive adjective that comes to mind… but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the end. Let me clarify – I LOVE LITHUANIA and I LOVE LCC and I LOVE THIS STUDY ABROAD EXPERIENCE. But all that is tempered by a slight case of homesickness. I miss my family, I miss my house, and I miss my girl. Really, I miss all the nuances that make home, home. Who wouldn’t? In no way am I wishing time away. This trip is too much of a blessing; too much of an amazing opportunity that not everyone has. I have quickly realized just how unique this is and how blessed I am to be here and that has totally shifted my point of view. It has made all the expended energy, and the sweat, and the stress worth it ten-fold. But I’ll be happy to be home when the time comes.

And it makes me enjoy the workout that much more. I’ve got 3/4 of a mile to go, and I’m just trying to hold on for the ride. It’s hard, it’s a sprint (just the nature of the trip!), and now, after laying it all out here, I am starting to breathe a little heavy…

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some reflections on an Orthodox church - Missy from Eastern

The exterior of the church was striking, with a bright red roof and a gaudy gold bulb atop the steeple, on which a golden cross stands straight and tall. We made sure to pull our scarves up over our heads before entering. Mass had finished a few minutes before we slipped into the small, ornate sanctuary; it smelled like candles that had just been blown out. I don’t know much about the orthodox faith, but I read a book for my theology class called The Orthodox Way by an orthodox bishop, Kallistos Ware. He explained that orthodox worship incorporates icons, pictures, and other sensory stimuli as a means of transcending the mundane to reach the divine.

The icons were innumerable; there were  ornate pictures covering every square inch of wall space in the sanctuary. Frankly, it was overwhelming for a plain old Protestant. There were only about four short benches in the back of the church–the rest of the sanctuary was open; there was a lectern at the front of the room, but it was not raised. There were what looked like two small altars at either side of the sanctuary in front of the lectern. Along the side walls, there were basins and smaller bowls, presumably for hand washing. An older woman entered the sanctuary and carefully crossed herself and bowed before entering the room. She bowed in front of one altar, rose, and paced to the other, where she repeated the crossing and bowing routine. Then she started picking up candles and tidying a few things, which we took as our cue to leave. We sat there a total of 3 and a half minutes, though we could have sat there for as many hours absorbing the artwork in the church.

I am interested in attending a service at the Russian Orthodox Church–even though I am quite certain I will not be able to understand anything that is going on. Our study abroad coordinator encouraged us to seek to experience God outside of our comfortable Western-Protestant worship style. God was, is, and always will be the same. I am interested to see how the lens through which I have always viewed God differs from the way that people in this tradition view Him. Certainly, no culture or religious sect has a true grasp on the reality of God. There is truth that can be grasped because it has been revealed in the Bible, but worship style is very contextual. I hope I am approaching orthodoxy with reverent intrigue without making a spectacle of it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Labas Vakaras - Becca from George Fox



Klaipėda Photo by Becca
 I am pretty sure I fell a little bit in love with this city tonight. Klaipeda is, for me, the perfect mixture of big-city feel and small-town atmosphere. Friday night is the busiest night of the week, and even then you'll spot only a few cars driving down the streets.

Klaipeda is quiet, but not in a Newberg sort of way. In Newberg (where I go to school in the states), life ceases to exist after about 8pm. The streets are silent and "Closed" signs blink through the night, the buzz of electricity the only thing to break the silence.

 In Klaipeda, life seeps out from the doorways of restaurants, bars and jazz clubs. There is laughter and the sound of small talk and the occasional wayward note of a saxophone. There is life, but it is not busy. There is life, but it is not ostentatious or pretentious. Klaipeda is about appreciation and sincerity, antiquity and culture. The cobble stone streets glow with the warm light of street lamps and the occasional couple strolls down the sidewalks on their way home from a drink with friends.

Klaipeda is, at times, other-worldly.

Tonight, Christy, Buddy and I went to a restaurant called Viva la Vita on the 21st floor of a hotel. There aren't many skyscrapers in Klaipeda, so our view was incredible and we sat down right as the sun began to set.

When our waitress handed us menus, we had a drink menu in English and a food menu in Lithuanian. For some reason, we assumed they didn't have a food menu in English and struggled through trying to figure out what to order when the only words we recognized were chicken, mango, fish, crocodile and cheese.

Thankfully Christy asked for a menu in English because what we thought was just steak was actually "Ostrich Steak" and there were a few other questionable items as well. I ended up ordering a chicken fillet grilled in filo dough with some sort of a sauce. All I can say is that it was the first full meal I have eaten in three weeks. It was indescribable. We stuck around for dessert, too, as the yellows of sunset turned to the dark blues of dusk.

At one point, a man was walking around the restaurant with his very happy one-year-old son. The little boy kept smiling at us and we, being as American as we are, smiled right back. So his dad picked him up and stood him on the table while he proceeded to have a conversation with us. As the little boy ripped pieces of napkin to give to Buddy, the man told us about his time in Estonia (where we are headed in about two weeks) and asked us lots of questions about our time in Lithuania. I am in awe at the kindness Lithuanians have shown us when we are in public situations and clearly out of our element. He even offered to help us out if we ever needed it!

Spending a quiet night out on the town was just what I needed. As an introvert, the constant social interaction I face here can be quite exhausting. In fact (and I'm embarrassed to admit this), I didn't wake up until after 1:00 today, purely from being so tired! But going out with just two of my friends (and two of the most easy-going, at that) was a perfect way to spend my Saturday evening.

After dinner, we walked around the Old Town of Klaipeda, scoping out other places to explore throughout the semester. I made a promise to bring my camera so I can capture Klaipeda at night and share how beautiful it is with you all.

The best part of the night, though, and by far the most hilarious thing ever was watching Buddy get attacked by a very drunken Bachelorette party. The bride, who was wearing a bright pink mini skirt that perfectly matched the lipstick smeared all over her face, headed straight for Buddy, flanked by all 7 or 8 of her friends. "Labas Vakaras" ("Good evening") , she said in a slightly slurred and suggestive manner. Christy and I were busting up laughing as Buddy pushed his way through the crowd of girls to reach safety. It was fantastic and the best way to end this wonderful Saturday evening.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taco Tuesdays in Enns 4th - Lizzy from Cornerstone

I wasn’t planning on writing another story for awhile, or at least until I had traveled a little
more. However a fun turn of events has inspired me to tell you about my night!
Photo by Lizzy

I live in Enns dorm at LCC International University. I live on the fourth floor. I am one of two (North) Americans living on this floor and since we are both from California and LOVE Mexican food we decided to make tacos for our entire hall! We decided to have Taco Tuesday in honor of our love for spicy food, and we invited all to join that lived on the floor. We went shopping down the road at Iki for our ‘foreign’ ingredients and came back in time to start cooking.

We wanted this experience to be as authentic as possible (as authentic as two white girls can make tacos), and so we decided to get creative and  make our own tortillas from scratch and work our way from there. We had everything a good taco needs: guacamole, sour cream, freshly grated cheese, salsa, lettuce, and meat (or rather what we think is ground turkey meat?). We started chopping and slicing, and several people from our hall (consisting of various nationalities) even joined in our preparation for Taco night!

It was truly an amazing experience and my friend and I had so much fun bonding with each other, but more importantly we got to hang out with the people we are living with and got to talk to so many different people and make new friends! I love it when food brings together so many different people, from so many walks of life. I can’t even tell you how many times I couldn’t stop laughing tonight and just enjoying being around these people and making tacos together!

There is so much more I could say, like how nobody really understood why we would make our own tortillas and not just buy them. Yet they were all still so fascinated and wanted to learn how to make their own!! Next time we will do a tutorial as we cook! I had my wonderful dough roller, who helped me make the tortillas just right. And my friend had her helpers making salsa and cheese! The only sad part about this whole operation is that we ran out of food before everyone got a chance to eat a taco! Next time we will have to make extra, or let people who did not get any go first!

Although one of my new friends from the Netherlands decided that he would make his own taco since he came too late for the party. And that is exactly what he did! We were amazed at how intent he was on having one. :)

I am just glad that everyone was able to come and enjoy some good food that they are not used too and that I was able to be a part of it!
This is going to be a good semester!
Enns 4th floor is the place to be at LCC, just ask anyone…but seriously.

God is Good. Peace.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Traveling in Eastern Europe

Photo by Ira
This weekend study abroad students explored two amazing capitals: Tallinn and Riga! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Something to Appreciate – Rebecca from George Fox

"Ar jus kalbate angliškai?", I said to the woman at the meat counter in Iki today. This simple phrase, meaning "Do you speak English?" was the first time I dared utter the Lithuanian language in public, aside from the occasional "ačiū" ("thank you") or "atsiprašau" ("excuse me"). My hands trembled as I spoke, but I managed to get the four words out of my mouth without stumbling over the foreign pronunciation.

And thankfully, her answer to my question was "taip" ("yes"). 

I decided to make chicken fajitas tonight as a little reminder of home. It was also the first time I've gone to the grocery store and felt successful coming out. I was able to find tortillas, spices, chicken, fresh veggies and olive oil all without meandering about the store in a hopeless daze. And then I was able to come home and cook it all for myself and some friends, without calling my dad for help. 

I'm taking this small victory very seriously. It is a sign that things are starting to fall together, despite all the differences I'm still spotting on a daily basis. I am finding my place here in Lithuania, and each day I find myself less tense and more at "home". 

I am beginning to appreciate things about Lithuania, and I've compiled a short list below: 
  • People stop for you when you are waiting at a crosswalk. 
  • I never feel strange walking on the sidewalk because a plethora of people walk in Klaipėda. 
  • The assortment of fresh bandelės (buns) is never-ending.
  • I don't feel obligated to smile at or say hello to complete strangers. 
  • Public transportation is simple and efficient. 
  • Nobody takes medicine- the cure for everything is tea instead of pills
It's a short list for now, but I've only been here for 2 weeks. I know that as the semester progresses, I will find more things to love and appreciate about this country and its culture. For now, I will choose to appreciate each of these things on a daily basis and keep my eyes peeled for more wonderful things. 

Today was a success, because I stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke a language I am terrible at. The result got me two chicken breasts which turned into a reminder of home and a dinner with friends. I'll take that chance any time from now on.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dear Risk Taker... - Annica from George Fox

That was how the emails I received from LCC International University started. A small, private college in Klaipeda, Lithuania, LCC got connected with my home university this year, giving me an opportunity to study abroad there. The university appeals to applicants by building them up as adventurers: stickers reading “I am a Risk Taker” are given out during recruitment visits, and the program’s emphasis on change and travel is preached everywhere from its panels to its pamphlets.

When LCC greeted me as a risk taker, honestly, I dismissed it as flattery. I was going abroad, sure, but it wasn’t nearly in as “legitimate” a situation as students who, say, live with a host family or study (and communicate in) a second language. I was going to a private, Christian, English-speaking campus. I’d be in a different culture, sure, but it’s still Europe, still “western” civilization. I saw it as something new, something exciting, something a little nerve-wracking, but not something I’d consider a “risk.”

Now, I give the LCC and its marketing a little more credit. Lithuania may not be unmanageable, but it’s more of a risk than I anticipated.

Photo by Rebecca
Which isn’t a terrible thing. It’s a good thing, actually. Getting out of my comfort zone is something I need to do. I just didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly.

I knew I wouldn’t understand everyone speaking around me. I didn’t know it would be because they’re speaking Russian, Ukrainian, and Latvian in addition to Lithuanian. I knew I’d have to have some trial runs before learning to navigate the city. I didn’t know my first (and hardest) lesson would come sitting at a bus stop from 10:00 to 11:00pm, waiting for a bus that had stopped running 30 minutes prior. I forgot how freaking. exhausting. that first trip to the grocery store can be — and how that exhaustion is magnified when you don’t read the language, you’re waiting for other students, and you’re converting in your head trying to figure out whether the price for tomatoes is reasonable.

But the blessings come with the curses over here. My roommates who could speak circles around me in Ukrainian and Latvian are also know what it’s like to study abroad, so they’re happy to switch and let me into the conversation. The grocery stores are distinctly Eastern European, but their ingredients that are accessible and familiar (even if the fruit I like is a little pricier). And a lot of the unexpected is fantastic, too. In six days, I’ve visited four new cities and moved to one new town, albeit temporarily. I’m exhausted, I’m nervous, and I’m very, very excited.

It's not always easy. There have already been days when I've asked myself what on earth I’m doing on another continent, trying to make new friends and run errands in Lithuanian when I could be at home, speaking English in a town I know with people I know.

But overall, it's proven a risk worth taking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Network of Humanity - Kim from APU


Traveling on my own challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone: because I didn't have one. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers and trust that everything was going to work out. If anything I gained the knowledge of believing in a network of human kindness…While traveling I saw the kindness and compassion of strangers, whether letting us sleep on a floor, helping with directions, or just simply trying to do their best to understand English. I have also learned that no problem is too large to overcome. No matter what tomorrow is another day and your problems today will end with the beginning a new refreshing moment…

So as I begin to settle into a new routine I have decided to be BRAVE. To not allow myself to hide in my room or make up excuses for not participating, I am going to be a risk taker. I am going to throw myself outside of my comfort zone, literally throw/hurl/ wildly shake myself out, because I do not want to miss an opportunity to learn from being uncomfortable. The funny thing about humans is that we often underestimate our own abilities. We say we can't, when in actuality we are fully capable but are simply afraid. I'm don't want to not be afraid, in fact I want to face my fears boldly and do exactly what it is I'm afraid of.

Our Lithuanian friend we met on a bus on the way to the Baden-Baden airport in Germany. It was just as random as it sounds. Photo by Kim

Monday, September 17, 2012

Turgus

Turgus - farmer's market. This is a place where you can get fresh produce everyday.

Photo by Mariah

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Figuring it out - Hannah from Eastern


Labas from Lithuania! It has been one long, intensive week in this beautiful country, and I’m loving every minute of it. Now before I give all the scandalous details of my new and exciting life, let’s get some facts all figure out. Firstly, where the heck is Lithuania? Well, here you go:    

That little pink shape under Latvia, and beside Belarus? My home sweet foreign country. Occupied by the USSR until 1991, Lithuania is a “young” country, according it’s proud citizens. Yeah, tell that to the ancient buildings, and cobblestone streets scattered beautifully around the city. Klaipeda, where I will be studying for the next four months, is a magnificent city resting on the Baltic Sea. A cool breeze has been constant since my arrival, and scarves are all the fashion to beat the chill. There is not one place you will look, and not see beauty. While culture shock is sure to set in, Klaipeda and I are still living in our honeymoon stage. But, you never really know someone until you live with them…

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trip to Mažeikiai - Michael from Westmont

SPRING 2012
Following our trip to Russia, I was feeling fairly homesick but thankfully my roommate, Tomas, invited me to his home town of Mažeikiai, in retrospect, one of the best experiences of my whole experience abroad. We arrived in Mažeikiai sometime in the evening on a Friday night. Tomas took me to his apartment, though I don't know how he could distinguish which building was his. So many of these Soviet buildings look exactly the same to me. His mother had already prepared a huge meal for us, in fact his mother continued to make us delicious food the entire weekend. After showing me some pictures of Tomas and the family, we went to bed. The next day was awesome. We went to the city's flea market where you can buy anything from Soviet Rubles to Nike shoes, washing machines, and cell phones. Next we went to the food market, in front of the market was a Lithuanian woman selling hand crafted items such as Elaborate Easter eggs, nut crackers shaped like mushrooms, and other wooden kitchenware. I bought a wooden pipe from her as a souvenir. We also went through a park that had several sculptures and a WWII memorial. 


One of the things you'll notice in Lithuania is that public spaces are often teeming with statues. The WWII memorial was really interesting. Lithuania was unfortunately wedged between both the Nazi's and the Soviets, both powers created immense devastation. All I could remember was thinking how strange it was that the names on the memorial are names of men who fought in the same war my grandparents fought in-yet on the other side of the world.

Eventually we found ourselves back at Tomas's apartment. We met up with his parents and sister and made our way to Tomas's relatives. His aunt and uncle live in a house next to his grandparents. Following the introductions, Tomas, his sister, and I went in to the grandparents' home for some coffee and conversation. Tomas's grandfather had been exiled to Siberia when he was very young, met a Russian woman and they eventually made their home in Lithuania. His grandfather took us upstairs to show us some medals he had won in pure bread dog competitions and his impressive collection of Amber. When we returned to our coffee, Tomas explained to his grandmother that where I live, California, we don't have winter. Needless to say, she was stunned. Next, we moved out doors to eat some delicious potatoes and grilled chicken with Tomas's aunt and uncle. His aunt remarked in Russian “I wonder if the Californian can split wood...” Before I knew there was an ax in my hand. 


Both Tomas and I were put to shame by the wood spiting abilities of his uncle. After eating we finished up the evening by playing a few rounds of pool in his uncle's basement, then enjoying some desert with the rest of the family. Tomas's father challenged me to a game of chess. It was the most intense game of chess I have ever played. We went 40 minutes without making any offensive moves. I said “It's just like the Cold War.” Tomas translated, and his father began to laugh. When I finally managed to get a pawn, he said “Ah! Amerikansky Aggressor!” He let me win.
Michael, his roommate Tomas and his family
I think this has become one of my favorite experiences because it was so authentic. I was far from any other Americans, in a context were people only spoke Russian or Lithuanian. It made quite an impact on me, to see how people live in both the standard Soviet buildings and in Lithuanian homes. Walking around on the streets in Lithuania, you wont see many friendly smiles, but Tomas's family broke the mold with their charm and good cheer. They were so welcoming and warm, that it totally changed my perspective on Eastern European culture. The food wasn't bad either...