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…